DON ANDERSON photo
Courtesy Clatsop County Historical Society
Ghadar Party: An early twentieth-century movement of Punjabi East Asian immigrants, who — facing plague, famine and British imperialism — shot out by the millions from the Raj (what the Indian subcontinent was referred to under British rule) to different parts of the world to find work and decent living conditions.
In North America, these immigrants first established themselves on the East Coast of the U.S. as merchants, public servants, military and laborers before moving west. Many Punjabi, whether Hindu, Muslim or Sikh, established themselves along the Columbia River, from The Dalles to Astoria.
In May 1913, many Punjabi from as far away as British Columbia and California assembled at the Finnish Socialist Hall in Astoria to hear a speaker, Har Dyal, a Stanford professor. Dyal’s speech would come to be known as the founding moment of the Ghadar Party, a revolutionary nationalist movement aiming to take back control of India from British colonialists at any cost.
While the original Ghadar Mutiny of 1915 was unsuccessful, leading to many arrests and executions under British rule, the larger effort of the Ghadar Party is seen as a precursor to the later nonviolent Indian independence movement led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
Sometimes spelled as gadar or ghadr, ghadar is an Urdu word by way of Arabic, meaning “revolt” or “rebellion.” One of the founders of the party, Kartar Singh Sarabha, wrote in the first issue of the weekly paper The Ghadar, which would become the publication the party rallied around: “Today there begins ‘Ghadar’ in foreign lands, but in our country’s tongue, a war against the British Raj. What is our name? Ghadar. What is our work? Ghadar. Where will be the Revolution? In India. The time will soon come when rifles and blood will take the place of pens and ink.”
“About a year ago a good many of the Hindu employees at Astoria and vicinity left here for California where it was said they were endeavoring to go back to India. It seems they were unable to get transportation as they were all bent on Anarchy against the British Government in India and were afraid to trust themselves on British vessels. Within the last few days quite a number of them have returned to Astoria including their leader Munshi Ram whom I saw yesterday for the first time for a long time.”
—E. E. Cherry, “British Foreign Office Record,” Astoria, Oregon, Dec. 11, 1915
“The weighty bronze metal sign attached to a metal pole at Maritime Memorial Park, which recognizes the Ghadar Party, went missing in October and has yet to be found. State Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, former Astoria Mayor Willis Van Dusen, Lovekesh Kumar — owner of Super Mart in Warrenton — and Bahadur Singh — Kumar’s brother — have donated $1,670 to cover the cost of its replacement.”
—“Donors pitch in to replace missing Ghadar Party sign at Maritime Memorial Park,” The Daily Astorian, Dec. 13, 2017