Resonances Volume 2, No.4

‘Ghadari Mela’ in Toronto, Canada
On November 16, 2008, the Ghadar Heritage Organisation and Desh Bhagat Sports and Cultural Society organised ‘Ghadari Mela’, a colourful cultural and political evening, in Rose Theatre, Brampton, Toronto Area.

‘Ghadari Mela’ in Toronto, Canada
On November 16, 2008, the Ghadar Heritage Organisation and Desh Bhagat Sports and Cultural Society organised ‘Ghadari Mela’, a colourful cultural and political evening, in Rose Theatre, Brampton, Toronto Area.

The legacy of the Ghadar Party founded in 1913, and the legendary Ghadari babas is an integral part of the history of the Indian immigrants to North America. Successive generations of immigrants and their descendants have not forgotten their national roots or the patriotic traditions of their forefathers.

Indeed, they have fought the same battles anew. The Ghadari babas of the past century aspired for equality in the Canadian polity and an independent India. The aspirations of the contemporary generation is essentially the same – to end the hierarchical rights in Canada and to support the peoples of India and South Asia who are still suffering from the remnants of colonial divide and rule policy and capitalist exploitation.

The annual Ghadari Melas in Canada are an example of a conscious attempt to educate the Indian youth in the fighting traditions of the community. Earlier the youth of the community had organized against racist attacks, which had shot up during the recession in the seventies and as well participated in the struggles of all immigrants and working people of Canada. Activists in the community have also organized cultural and sports festivals that have helped in not only uniting the community but also in bridging the immigrant communities from across the subcontinent in friendship.

Following Nirmal’s welcoming remarks, Kulwinder, cultural secretary of the Ghadar Heritage Organization, explained the purpose of the Ghadari Mela. It is to pay homage to our martyrs who fought for dignity and rights, and to learn from that experience to deal with the problems facing us today. He referred to the economic problems in Canada and elsewhere, including cut backs on social services, bail-out of big banks and so on, while working people are left to fend for themselves in the face of job cuts and falling access to housing.

Respected communist activist Comrade Gurdev spoke next and emphasized that the dreams of the Ghadarites have not been fulfilled. Majority of Indian people are living in inhuman conditions while the elite are aligning themselves with the imperialist powers, including the US, to achieve their own imperial aims. The claims of the successive governments that market oriented reforms will solve the problems of the economy have been thoroughly exposed by the deep crisis that has engulfed the world. He concluded that deep going changes and a genuine democratic renewal can save India and lift our people out of their inhuman conditions. Dr. Raj Mishra, speaking on behalf of the Association of Indian Progressive Study groups (AIPSG), warned the people about the growing danger of war in South Asia, which the big powers are preparing. He pointed to the American plan to mobilize Canada and NATO to strengthen the occupation of Afghanistan and enter Pakistan militarily, all under the pretext of hunting down terrorists. He appealed to the people of South Asia, to fight against making Asia the centre of another World War.

Professor Varyam Sandhu highlighted the sacrifices made by our martyrs. In particular, he highlighted the example of Kartar Singh Sarabha, whose 93rd anniversary of martyrdom coincided with the date of this Ghadari Mela. He spoke of the sacrifices of people from his village, Sur Singh Wala in Amritsar, from where two of the Ghadarites were hanged by the British rulers. He spoke against the distortion of history by the British colonialists and by the Indian state, including the labeling of patriots as terrorists, or as atheists, robbers and bandits.

A play, ‘Gatha Kale Paniyan Dee’ (The saga of Kalapani) written and directed by Harikesh Choudhri, of Lok Kala Manch of Mulah Pur, was presented in the later part of the programme. Following the failed armed uprising of 1915 organised by the Ghadar Party, the British not only executed hundreds of revolutionaries like 18 year old Kartar Singh Sarabha, but also sent several to the dreaded cellular jail at Andaman Islands over a thousand kilo metre from the Indian coast. The conditions in the jail made it living hell and this punishment came to be known as Kalapani. Everything in the jail was meant to break the resistance and spirit of the inmates and it was only meant for revolutionaries who were inimical to British interests. The play depicted the irrepressible spirit of Ghadari babas in those conditions and exposed how the compromising sections of the Indian ruling classes inherited the British colonial mantle post independence. The play was highly appreciated for its political content and high production values.

First anniversary of Ghadar Jari Hai celebrated
The first anniversary of the launch of the Ghadar Jari Hai magazine (GJH) was celebrated on Sep 7, 2008, at Jaishankar Memorial Centre, in Delhi.

The programme consisted of an interesting presentation on Harappan Civilization by Dr Ravinder Singh Bisht, former Joint Director General of the Archeological Survey of India and the formal launching of the website Prakash Rao welcomed the invitees on behalf of Lok Awaz Publishers and Distributors. He said, “GJH is an important initiative that has provided a platform for free exchange of thoughts about Indian history, philosophy, economy, culture and politics without the jaundiced eye of Eurocentrism. Numerous persons have contributed to this venture in various ways in bringing out the past three issues. These issues have been well received in all parts of the country”.

Noted journalist and member of the advisory board of the GJH magazine, Shivanand Kanavi introduced the guest speaker of the event Dr Ravinder Singh Bisht. He pointed out that apart from being a noted archeologist; Bisht is knowledgeable in Sanskrit language and literature. This allows Bisht to explore relationships of archeological findings with the literature of the era, if possible. He invited the speaker to share his understanding of Vedic literature with the findings at Harappan sites.

Dr Bisht made a brief presentation that surveyed the findings from various Harappan sites spread across the entire stretch of northwest India. He focused on Dholavira site, which has provided a rich treasure of information. He said that we come across a very strange situation, where a great ancient urban civilization, with high level of technology and planning presents itself objectively, but we are unable to decipher its language and script. We do not know who this people were, and what language they spoke. On the other hand we talk about Vedas, the oldest literary composition of humanity, and we do not know what was the material culture left behind by those who composed the rig veda. We have a highly developed language in the form of Sanskrit narrating in graphic details about an era whose material foundation remain elusive to us.

Many theories have been put forward, but we still do not have the solution to this dichotomy. He said that the sad thing is that we still believe the theory propounded by the Europeans that the Aryans were barbarians who destroyed this ancient urban civilization. Anybody who tries to relate these two is branded as right reactionary and the discussion ends there. He lamented that this is a very sorry state of affairs in the Indian intellectual community that is blocking any advance in knowledge about our past. He congratulated the publishers of Ghadar Jari Hai magazine for creating a platform for deepening our understanding of ourselves, and our past, free from Eurocentric prejudices. Bisht quoted various shlokas and passages from Vedas and speculated that it is quite possible that Vedas had their origin in this civilization and they were the same people. The presentation was followed up by discussion where all those gathered participated vigorously sharing their ideas and opinions and raising thought-provoking questions and doubts.

S Raghavan, editor of GJH, invited Niyam Bhushan to launch the website of the Ghadar Jari Hai magazine and say a few words on new media, that is spreading far and wide. Niyam Bhushan is a new media expert, a graphics consultant, and proponent of Linux open source and copyleft movement. The copyleft movement asserts that all knowledge belongs to the people. Concluding the proceedings Prakash said that Lok Awaz publishers will strive to bring more such thought provoking live interactions besides the magazine itself.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *