Role of brave women second to none in Ghadar movement

This piece by Neel Kamal on Oct 30, 2013 has been reproduced from the Online edition of The Times of India.


This piece by Neel Kamal on Oct 30, 2013 has been reproduced from the Online edition of The Times of India.


BATHINDA: Names of legendary freedom fighters — Kartar Singh Sarabha, Rash Behari Bose, Sohan Singh Bhakna, Maulvi Barkatullah and Lala Hardayal — are recalled for their stellar role in the formation of Ghadar Party in California in 1913. However, little is known about the party’s intrepid women members, who matched their male counterparts in fighting for the country’s freedom against the British regime.

Role of three women Ghadarites deserves a special mention for fighting for the Indian independence even while staying abroad. Interestingly, one of them was an American, who never visited India. The three women are Gulab Kaur, Bhikaji Cama and American Agnes Smedley.

Known as Ghadri Gulab Kaur, a native of Bakshiwala village in Sangrur district, she preferred to work for the party after taking a radial decision of leaving her husband in Philippines. Born in 1890, Gulab faced lots of hardships but never gave up. When her husband Maan Singh declined to return to India to take part in the freedom struggle, Gulab accompanied other Ghadarites, Jiwan Singh Daula Singh Wala and Hafiz Abdulla, as their sister. She even had to pose as the wife of Jiwan Singh, to escape arrest while alighting from a ship near Kolkata (then Calcutta).

"Like many Punjabis facing economic hardships, Gulab and her husband had migrated to Philippines for an onward journey to America. But when a ship, SS Korea, reached Manila for an onward journey to India, Gulab boarded it on October 28, 1914, to work with Ghadarites, including Kartar Singh Sarabha. She was arrested from Naudh Singh Wala and tortured at Lahore’s Shahi Quila. She finally died in 1931," informed Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Committeemember Amolak Singh.

On the other hand, Bhikaji Cama was born in a wealthy Parsi family in Mumbai on September 24, 1861. She was named Bhikaji Sorab Patel and became Bhikaji Rustom Cama after her marriage. However, the iron-willed woman was better known as Madam Cama among the freedom fighters. She worked in the slums of Mumbai during outbreak of plague. She even left her husband to work selflessly for the poor people afflicted with the disease. She fell sick and was taken to Germany for treatment. Later, she went to England to work with the Indian revolutionaries.

"Madam Cama had unfurled a self-designed tricolour in Stuttgart town of Germany on August 22, 1907, which enraged the English government. She then reached US and worked with Ghadarites. She died on August 13, 1936," said historian Malwinderjit Singh Waraich.

Agnes Smedley, a journalist and writer born on February 23, 1892 at Missouri in US, was known more for her autobiographical novel "Daughter of Earth" wherein she described her association with the Indian freedom struggle. Despite no similarity in culture and traditions, Agnes came in close contact with Lala Lajpat Rai, M N Roy, Virendranath Chattopadhyaya, Shailendranath Ghose, Bhagwan Singh and Taraknath Das in US during World War-I and served as a communication volunteer for Indian revolutionaries and oversaw Ghadar party’s various publications.

Her father worked in a coal company, where the lives of poor labourers left a lasting impression on her mind and she grew into a sympathizer of the oppressed. She was even arrested with some documents belonging to the Ghadar Party, but she didn’t disclose anything to the police. The incident finds a mention in her novel.

Agnes accompanied Virendranath Chattopadhyaya to Germany to take part in left-wing activism. Later she moved to China and died on May 6, 1950. Agnes had once written, "More and more do I see that only a successful revolution in India can break England’s back forever and free Europe itself. It is not a national question concerning India any longer, it is purely international."

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