Calendar dedicated to Ghadar Party centenary released

VANCOUVER DESI

The Indo Canadian Workers’ Association (ICWA) in partnership with Radio India partly dedicated this year’s calendar to Idle No More, an ongoing indigenous movement in Canada. Submitted photo

A calendar dedicated to the Ghadar Party centenary was released at a public event in Surrey this past Saturday.

The Indo Canadian Workers’ Association (ICWA) in partnership with Radio India partly dedicated this year’s calendar to Idle No More, an ongoing indigenous movement in Canada.

In an attempt to express solidarity with Idle No More, some important dates associated with the indigenous history are also marked on this year’s calendar.

The two organizations have together released calendars highlighting the Ghadar heroes and their struggle for the past six years in a row. This year’s calendar, which coincides with 100 years of the Ghadar Party, was released by a couple, Harjit and her husband Manjit Dhillon.

While Harjit is the daughter of Moola Singh Bahowal, a towering leader of the Gurdwara movement, which was also a part of the freedom struggle, Manjit Dhillon is the descendant of Niranjan Singh Pandori, a prominent Ghadar activist.

Most speakers warned against attempts by sectarian and separatist forces to distort the image of the Ghadar Party in Canada. Though the party was secular in character, as it kept religion and politics apart, pro-Khalistan groups continue to portray it as a Sikh movement.

ICWA President Surinder Sangha categorically urged the secular and progressive forces to get organized and expose the nefarious designs of the theocratic forces by presenting the true picture of the Ghadar movement.

Former Canadian MOP Ujjal Dosanjh agreed. Dosanjh, who is also the grandson of Moola Singh Bahowal, said that their (freedom fighters) brand of Sikhism was not as sectarian as of the Sikh separatists.

Taking a dig at recent incidents of sexual violence in India he also reminded the gathering at the calendar unveiling ceremony that the Ghadar activists believed in gender equality, too. He also suggested that the Idle No More struggle launched by the indigenous peoples of Canada has its roots in systematic racism and colonialism against which Ghadarites had fought selflessly.

Opposition MP Jinny Sims said that only a secular political environment can guarantee harmony and peace in any country. She insisted religion should be kept outside the public institutions to ensure social equality.

Being an immigration critic in the shadow cabinet, she said that not only indigenous peoples but immigrants are suffering because of right-wing policies of the current Conservative government.

She encouraged the community to stand up against this injustice if they truly believed in the principles of the Ghadar Party.

Surrey Newton MLA Harry Bains said that the struggle launched by the Ghadarites must be kept alive to create a just society.

Prominent scholars, Sadhu Binning, Dr. Sadhu Singh and SP Dwivedi, also emphasized keeping religion and politics apart in accordance with the principles of the Ghadar Party to stop bloodshed and violence going on in the name of faith both in India and elsewhere.

Chetna Association leader Jai Birdi also underlined the importance of secular credentials of the Ghadar Party. He added that the party denounced caste-based oppression – as a result of which people like Mangu Ram Muggowal, a former Ghadar activist and a Dalit icon, launched Aad Dharam movement that gave voice to the so-called untouchables in Punjab.

Charlie Smith, editor of the Georgia Straight, threw light on the Idle No More movement and agreed that Ghadar history has relevance for new generation Canadians.

Others who spoke on the occasion included ICWA members Surinder Dhesi, Kulwant Dhesi and Paramjeet Gandhari.

Other prominent speakers were Consul and Head of Chancery from the Indian Consulate, R. Chandramouli, and poet Nadeem Parmar.

Among those present were MLA Dave Hayer and two NDP candidates for the upcoming assembly election, Vinay Sharma and Amrik Mahil, Communist Party of Canada leader Harjit Daudhria, Taraksheel Sabha leader Parminder Swaich, Fraser Valley Peace Council leaders Saif Khalid and Shahzad Nazir Khan, prominent moderate Sikh leader Giani Harkirat Singh and historian Sohan Pooni.

The Ghadar Party was established in 1913 by Indian immigrants who believed in an armed rebellion to free India from British occupation. Most of the founders of the party came to the U.S. and Canada as British subjects. Many of them had previously served in the British army and truly believed in the justice system of British Empire.
Due to racism and discriminatory immigration policies, they soon realized that the British Empire did not have a political will to help them against discrimination in Canada.

This transformed them into social justice activists who soon realized that the root cause of their sufferings was slavery back home. The Ghadar Party therefore fought on two levels: to resist racism in an alien land and fight against foreign occupation in India. Many of them returned to launch mutiny only to face the gallows or life imprisonment.

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