Lahore Prison, 101 years ago, this day November 16, 1915; a prisoner was being hanged at the age of 19, just 19.
His crime was revolt against the British Rule, as a member of the Ghadar Party. The Ghadar Party, oh yes, there was a party those days by that name, the party that preceded the so-called struggle of the Congress Party, formed in 1913 by Indians living in California. The Ghadar Party started printing a paper named Ghadar, which was published in the Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati and Pushto languages. Sample this from the Verse 1, Issue 1 of ‘Gadar Di Goonj’ newspaper:
The whole world is awake and alert
Why is India in deep slumber?
Why is your spirit slack O Indians? glory
Your body weak and clothes in tatters!
Black thieves is what the world call us
Our children live a life of misery.
Where is that pride, that glory,
That splendour, that grandeur that brilliance?
Where is your great exalted culture
The knowledge of the spirit and of matter?
We yearn for those men of past
With great minds and great bodies
Arjuna, Bhima, Kali Das Pandit
And just kings like Raja Bhoj.
O India! Where are your brave Hindus?
Where are the valiant Muslims?
Divided we stray and suffer
Why don’t we unite and strike together?
The oppression the tyranny we face daily,
What stops us from hitting back?
The world derides us and calls us coolie
No wonder our flag flutters no more
We face troubles from all quarters
Yet we lack the courage to fight back
We believe we good for nothing
Why would the world honour us?
We carry the burden of slavery
And never do we dream of being free.
How long can we survive as slaves?
Let’s now learn to rule
Kicked and humiliated we are everywhere
Treated with favour by none.
We have to go far
We can’t afford to relax
With eyes focused on the goal
Day and night, at all times.
We have no right to be alive
If we can’t fight for our rights.
How can we choose to play the fiddle,
When our house burns in front of our eyes?
Ah! if the Earth would part and bury us
Or the lightening would strike us dead.
What useless lives we live!
And we live, still we live, how we live?
We roam around like fools all day
And never play our own tunes
The prick of a needle wakes a man up
Alas! Even arrows don’t make us rise
The young man we are talking about was the writer cum editor for that revolutionary paper. The party slowly gathered strength in India consisting mainly of Bengalis and Sikhs, of stalwarts like Ras Behari Bose and Jatin Mukherjee.
So the Ghadar Party sensing opportunity during World War – I had declared a war against the British and were preaching mutiny amongst Indian soldiers of the British Army.
After some successful attacks to loot treasuries, the Gadharites including this young man, had planned an armed attack on British cantonments of Mian Mir and Ferozepur, as well as Ambala and Delhi. The plan was leaked and some Gadharites were captured. Our young man had escaped but came back because he didnt want to leave his imprisoned colleagues.
So, he was imprisoned and sentenced to death because as the judge felt “he is very proud of the crimes committed by him. He does not deserve mercy and should be sentenced to death”.
There was a song that the young prisoner had written, a song that was on his lips while hanged
“ਸੇਵਾ ਦੇਸ਼ ਦੀ ਜਿੰਦੜੀਅੇ ਬੜੀ ਔਖੀ,
ਗੱਲਾਂ ਕਰਨੀਆਂ ਢੇਰ ਸੁਖੱਲੀਆਂ ਨੇ,
ਜਿੰਨੇ ਦੇਸ਼ ਦੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਚ ਪੈਰ ਪਾਇਆ,
ਓਹਨਾ ਲੱਖ ਮੁਸੀਬਤਾਂ ਝੱਲੀਆਂ ਨੇ.”
सेवा देश दी, जिन्दरिये बढ़ी औखी
गल्लां करनियाँ फेर सुखलियाँ ने,
जिहने देश दी सेवा च पैर पाइया
ओहना लाख मुसीबतां झाल्लियाँ ने.
Serving the country is not easy
It is easy, just to talk
He who walks in the service of the nation
Must endure a lot of wrath”
The name: KARTAR SINGH SARABHA
Other Gadharites hanged with him this day:
2. Bakhsish Singh
3. Surain Singh elder brother
4. Surain Singh younger
5. Jagat Singh
6. Harnaam Singh Sialkoti
7. Vishnu Ganesh Pingle
a) Bhagat Singh considered Sarabha as his Guru.
b) It was Gadar party, by the way, that kept incessantly seeking support of Indian soldiers.. it was they that raised the Indian National Army, invited Netaji from Germany and handed him the Army which he reorganised and renamed Azad Hind Fauj. Ghadar Party had a popular song in its ranks:
शहीद की जो मौत है, वो कौम की हयात है,
शहीद का जो है लहू, वो कौम की ज़कात है,
कटे जो चंद डालियाँ तो चमन हो हरा भरा,
कटे जो चंद गर्दनें तो कौम की हयात है |
Death of a martyr, is but life to the nation
His blood is but an offering to the nation
Few branches fall so that gardens come alive
Only when some heads fall, do nations come alive.