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Letter from Bhagwan Singh Gyanee to Jagjit Singh

Letter from Bhagwan Singh Gyanee to Jagjit Singh, dated June 18, 1956. Gyanee remarks on Singh's book Gadar Party Laher, praising its research and also offering various corrections. Gyanee details the factions within the party, the antagonism between Gadar Party and the Gurdwara Party of Stockton, and disagrees with Singh's evaluation of the German influence on the Gadar movement. The letter ends with Gyanee discussing what happened to Gadar files and materials after the Gadar Ashram in San Francisco was turned over to the Indian Government in 1948-49, concluding that not enough is being done to document their history.

Date: June 18, 1956
Subject(s): Jagjit Singh, Gadar Party, Gadar Ashram, Ram Chandra
Type: Correspondence
Language: English
Creator: Bhagwan Singh Gyanee
Location: 2031-1/2 Workman Street, Los Angeles, CA

2031-/2 Workman Street
Los Angeles 31, California

June 18 1956

Br Jagjit Singh
c/o Col Gurbax Singh
Tarn Taran,
Punjab, INDIA

Dear Sardar SinghJi:

I have just finished your book “GADAR PARTY LAHER” which you were kind enough to send me for my information. I enjoyed reading it immensely. It brought back the memories of events that took place when we were young and vigorous. Also it provided the ‘darshans’ of my compatriot comrades with whom I worked, nejoyed their association and exchanged ideas.

Your research work of Gadar Literature and especially securing photos is most commendable. References to the sources of your information enhances greatly the value of the data. The suggestion that the record is not complete, that further research work is required and particularly in the places where the party members had established their headquarters in foreign countries is both constructive and timely.

May be in time, we will have a Department of History organized that will be connected with some University or Private Institution which will undertake to complete the work left undone.

Your style of writing Punjabi is lucid and clear. When I left India I cherished the opinion that I was a master of the Punjabi language, but when I read modern literature, I rejoice in the fact of how far my own mother tongue has progressed, developed and become sweeter,-Congratulation

Now for some corrections:
Of the pictures printed, the photographed captioned Bhai Bhag Singh, Canadian, between pages 288 and 289 is not that of Bhai Bhag Singh but that of Bhai Varyam Singh, who also was in Canada at the time.

The stress you make on the point that most of the immigrants to Canada & the United States were peasants from Central Punjab and due to the fact that their being in free countries was enough fermentation to make them Revolutionary, is not a correct assumption. There were five or six hundred of our Moslem countrymen from the same district of Central Punjab, they did not become enflamed with patriotism to the degree Hindus and Sikhs were.

Also the fact that up to the time of my arrival in Canada, May 1913, there were internal struggles between various groups among the Sikhs, let alone the Hindus and Moslems among whom there was not even a neighborly feeling. Moslem and Hindus were not allowed to come into the Temple.

Friction existed between Tat Kalsa Group and the Liberal Nationalist G Group which was led by Bhai Bhag Singh, Bhai Balwant Singh, Granthi, Raja Singh, Mr Rahim, etc. The Tat Kalsa group was led by Bhai Varyam Singh who used to carry the group with Dholahs and Chamtas singing the shabads in the streets of Vancouver, Victoria and other cities, creating amusement, curiosity and even ridicule.

This group was purely religious and very strongly so. They disliked any kind of National activity even were openly hostile to it. There was a third group among the Sikhs under Bela Singh and others who were working with the immigration authority as traitors against their own countrymen for their own selfish interest and sadistic satisfaction.

“Guru Nanak Mining and Trust Co” as well as the “United India League” which Sardar Teja Singh had helped to establish and organize had been broken down and dissolved. Over and above these divisions the community was divided into ‘Maghs’, ‘Malwa’ and ‘Duabd’ Groups. The same disease I discovered among the Indians in the United States when Mulvi Barakatulah and I arrived there, May 23rd 1914.

Before Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna left for India, we had an open skirmish with Gudwara Party in Stockton, California, who were openly hostile to the Gadar Party. These facts and many more cannot be penned in this letter, prove that merely being in foreign and free countries make people Nationalistic and ready to revolt, is an assumption which cannot be verified in the light of experience.

Dynamic personalities like Har Dyal and others played a very important part in arousing the masses.

My personal experience in the Army at Hong Kong while I was Granthi there for three years from 1910 to 1913, convinced me that our countrymen in the Army whether they were Hindu, Moslem or Sikh were ready to join the Revolutionary Movement. Also my experience in Malaya in the latter part of 1909 where many soldiers and even officers up to the rank of Subadars gave me assurance that when they were ready, they would join us.

Your analysis and conclusion that the Leaders of the Gadar Party did not have enough time to consolidate, train and procure the necessary material and weapons, is correct and factual. We saw the dark clouds of war hover over Europe; we were fully conscious of the gathering fury and its implications to enslaved nations of Asia, but we did not expect the war so soon. An accident happened in Yugo Slavia at Sarajevo, where Crown Prince of Austria was assassinated by the Serbian Nationalists and that brought the war quicker than the deliberate efforts of the politicians, or that incident hastened the events that were gathering momentum for quite sometime.

Your book does not give a correct evaluation of the German participation in the activities of the Gadar Party.

After the First Indian Contingents were brought into Europe and fought valiantly against the German Army, it was then that Kaiser Wilhelm and the Military Staff became aware of the necessity of discouraging the Indian Army from coming into Europe. Of course by this time Har Dyal and other had also appeared on the German scene.

From the very beginning the Gadar Party planned co-operation with all governments who were hostile to England. This was the reason of our association with the Turkish Revolutionary Movement, with the Chinese, the Irish and Russian Revolutionary Societies. We needed and wanted facilities to train our men for active military service, especially officers. We needed arms, not heavy guns for the big battles against organized British Army, but pistols, rifles, machine guns, small arms for the main purpose of creating fear in the minds of our own traitors first, then those English officials who were too cocky and too trigger-happy and shot Indians at the least provocation.

The Gadar Party had no intention to organize secret conspiracies, either for loot or indiscriminate shootings. It was strictly confined and directed to discourage our own Indian traitors in the Civil Service, police or any other hostile elements.

It was for the purpose of securing military co-operation that I met Col. Tanaka, military attaché to the Japanese Embassy at Washington, D C in 1917, Also the Turkish Ambassador. I protested the discrimination against us for not being allowed in their military schools for training while Chinese, Siamese and Afghans were permitted. It is a long story, but your estimation of “lacking time for preparation” is correct.

One fact is very important and came to my personal experience in 1915 while in China and Phillipines. German representatives in Foreign countries, U S, China, Japan, etc., were interested only in creating aggitation in India so that Indians would not be recruited in the British Army and be sent to fight against them. There was no genuine effort on the part of Germany to see India FREE. Their interest was limited to stop us from fighting in Europe.

In the first place, Germany needed all armament, big & small for her own survival. She was supplying arms to Austria, Turkey plus her own armies. She could not afford to give us any arms.
In the second, Japan, after securing concessions from England & her Allies to withdraw from Pacific waters, had declared war against Germany. This left Japan free to establish her own control & supremacy in the waters of Asia and whatever armaments were to be found in the Province of Shantung, then under German control and the 6000 German soldiers in the support of Sing Tao, that too were lost to us after the Germans at Sing Tao surrendered to the Japanese.

The lack of arms was the very reason that the German Consul at Shanghai could not reach any agreement with Rash Bahari Bose who went to Shanghai after we decided that I could not leave Japan on account of being under close surveillance.

There was no choice, only selection. Either we sat quietly and did nothing just like our National Congress was doing inside India or do whatever we could in the hope that our countrymen in India would join us while England was engage in her life struggle. Our hopes were high, patriotism at fever pitch. None of us had any concept of safety or survival only one desire, open defiance of alien rule, challenge of his authority, his moral right to exploit India for the benefit as shop-keepers and above all our love for India and the challenge to our own manhood.

The wonder is not that the Gadar Party failed during the first World War of 1914 -18 but wonder of all wonders lies that our own countrymen, with all their knowledge and Brahmavidya were actually recruiting for the British Army and for their own enslavement. The Gadar Party did suffer. They lost their property, their freedom, were tortured and hanged or imprisoned.

If these brave men from foreign parts had not gone to India, had not done what they actually did there would have been no Conspiracy Cases, no Trials no warning to the British. Rowlett Commission was not sent to India to investigate the daring deeds of the National Congress, but the activities of the Gadar Party and its members. Without the Rowlett Commission and Report there could have been no Rowlett Act, no Jallianwala Bagh massacre to protest against it. There could have been NO general awakening in India

It was this MASS awakening that brought Congress Party and particularly GandhiJi into the open. The field was ready. This was strictly a contribution of the Gadar Party. The success story of Netaji’s I N A is apparent to everybody now, but that was a quarter of a century later. Even that story cannot be complete without knowing how much work was done in the army, police and civilian population by the members of the Gadar Party who carried on propaganda work, going underground, changing their identity until Netaji appeared on the scene in 1941. Indian soldiery deserted the British by the hundreds and when Shanghai fell fifty thousand out of fifty-five thousand Indian soldiers volunteered to join the Indian Army to fight and die for the freedom of India.

It was these shocks of Indian Army's disloyalty and undependability that convinced the British that India cannot be held against her will. Not exclusively the non-violent doctrine. Besides this, Gadar Party undermined British prestige in America and all over Europe by publisizing the actual facts about how brutally England was ruling India, disarming the masses, destroying our educational system and wholesale poverty & famines. Bringing these dark deeds of the British to light, and in her own community of equals, weakened and destroyed the moral justification of British Rule in India.

This Congress did not and could not do. Even incidents like the Jallianalal Bagh did not come to light outside India. More than nine months elapsed before the horrible slaughter was disclosed.

Now India is free and forty years have gone by. It seems very difficult for our Congress Rulers to even remember that there was a time in the history of the National Congress when it was weak, helpless and at the mercy of alien masters. It dared not then even protest while members of the Gadar Party were swinging by their necks. How short in human memory, especially that of those who are supposed to know everything taking place in the Cosmic Universe.

One more item and I must close for time being.
After Gadar Ashram in San Francisco was turned over to the Indian Government in 1948-49 and officially taking possession of in 1940, in spite of my protests and warning to the Indian Consul General, most of the valuable Gadar files & literature including Punjabi and Urdu files were spirited away. To this day they have never been recovered. Further still, we collected about $10,000 cash, with much more to be contributed, to establish a Memorial to the Gadar Party and its martyrs, as a Headquarters for the Indo-American Association. We were assured that the Indian Gov. would put up an equal amount as would be collected locally for this purpose. It is 6 yrs. since. Nothing has been done. Worse the ashram and all it contained was [?] and demolished.

On one side Congress is interested in collecting every bit of paper connected with the non-violent Movement but has neither desire nor interest concerning Gadar movement nor even Netaji’s supreme sacrifice and that of his associates. This work MUST be done. Facts MUST be collected, records preserved and above all YOUNG INDIA MUST KNOW the succession of events AS THEY TOOK PLACE thish brought India her FREEDOM.

Much more needs to be written, but enough for present.
With best wishes to you and Giani Hira Singh “Darad”.
Sincerely yours,
(Bhagwand Singh Gyanee)

PS The story of Ram Chandra is too complicated to write but it willlcome out in detail and documented in the autobiography. BSG

Collection: Bhagwan Singh Gyanee Materials
Donor: S.P. Singh
Digitizer: Anne Vagts, Samip Mallick
Item History: 2012-08-05 (created); 2013-05-03 (modified)

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