Gadar Memorial in San Francisco to be Museum and Library
By Inder Singh
During his inaugural address on January 8, 2013 at Pravasi Bhartiya Divas in Kochi, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh said:
“This year, we are celebrating the centenary of the Gadar Movement, which was a luminous spark of support in distant California for the struggle for independence being waged at home in our country. Apart from commemorating it by the issue of a special postage stamp, we will also upgrade the Gadar Memorial in San Francisco into a functional museum and library with a sculpture to honor the Gadari Babas, the heroes of the great movement.”
Earlier, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi, responsible for the organization of the annual Pravasi Bhartiya Divas, in his speech at the inaugural event for PBD 2013, said, “This is the centenary of the Gadar Movement when migrants from India settled in Canada and USA rose in their opposition to British rule in India, unmindful of the consequences in their love for motherland. Today is also a day to pay homage to them.” Later in the afternoon, Gadar historian and scholar Prof. Harish Puri, formerly of Guru Nanak Dev University, spoke for 45 minutes in a plenary session devoted exclusively to Gadar Movement.
The Hindustan Association of the Pacific Coast, known as the Gadar Party was founded in 1913 to free India from British slavery. The headquarters of the association was established initially at 436 Hill Street, San Francisco and named as “Yugantar Ashram.” Subsequently, a three-storey building at 5 Wood street was purchased with funds collected from Punjabi laborers. An electric press was installed for the weekly Gadar journal and other revolutionary publications to propagate and promote the aims, objectives and activities of the organization. Through the Gadar publications, the Indian people were called upon to unite and rise up against the British rule and throw them out of India.
Lala Har Dyal, first Secretary General of the Association and editor of Urdu Gadar Journal, Kartar Singh Sarabha, editor of the Punjabi edition and other volunteers responsible for the printing and mailing of the weekly Gadar Journal and other publications, lived and worked in the building. Over a period of time, the building became known as “Gadar Ashram”.
After India became independent, Gadar building was handed over to the Indian Consulate in San Francisco in 1949. The building was in a dilapidated condition and was not fit for use. A suitable memorial, a two storey new building, with US$ 83,000 from Government of India and rest raised from the Indian community in California, was built and named Gadar Memorial Hall. Sardar Swaran Singh, the then Minister of External Affairs, performed the ground breaking ceremony in September 1974. India’s Ambassador T.N.Kaul, performed the inauguration ceremony for the new building in March 1975. Gadar Hall is currently used by the Consul General of India for celebrating national festivals like Independence Day and Republic Day and for other official functions.
The Gadar Memorial Hall is now the living symbol of the glorious sacrifices of the Gadarites who, in the words of former President K.R. Narayanan, “faced untold misery and hardships in pursuit of their objective and even made the supreme sacrifice of laying down their lives.”
In 2003, in order to create awareness among the new generation of Indian Americans, Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), National Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA) and Global Punjabi Diaspora organized celebration of 90th anniversary of the Gadar Movement by holding a day-long seminar followed by a banquet in the evening at the Santa Clara Hilton (60 miles from San Francisco). Former President of India, K.R Narayanan traveled from India to the US to be the chief guest.
In June 2011, a letter was handed over to India’s Consul General in San Francisco, asking Government of India to commemorate centenary of Gadar Movement at a grand scale, issue a postage stamp commemorating Gadar Movement, etc. A similar request was made to the Ambassador of India, and several other high ranking officials and ministers. GOPIO also sent a request to the prime minister of India, followed by personal contact with his office and worked closely with the ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs.
GOPIO, several organizations and individuals and descendants of Gadari Babas have been relentlessly pursuing with various agencies of the government and are overjoyed to hear the acknowledgement of Gadar Movement by the Prime Minister of India at the annual convention of NRIs/PIOs (PBD 2013). His announcement that the Gadar Memorial in San Francisco will be upgraded into a “functional museum and library with a sculpture to honor the Gadari Babas, the heroes of the great movement” is a great welcome news.
Copyright © Inder Singh, 2013
Inder Singh regularly writes and speaks on Indian Diaspora. He is Chairman of Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO). He was president of GOPIO from 2004-2009, president of National Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA) from 1988-92 and chairman from 1992-96. He was founding president of Federation of Indian Associations in Southern California. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org