Ghadar movement remembered by international scholars

By Majid Sheikh

Dawn, dec 7 , 2014


LAHORE: It has been exactly 100 years since the Ghadar Movement was launched by Punjabi labourers in San Francisco, where they collected money, hired a ship named Komagata Maru in 1914, and landed at Calcutta. Their end was tragic.


To commemorate this important event in our national freedom movement, the history department of Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) organised an international conference which started on Saturday on the varsity campus.

Some of the world’s leading scholars and researchers on the subject read their papers on the opening day of the two-day conference. The Keynote Address was delivered by one of India’s leading scholars, Harish Puri, a Professor Emeritus of the Guru Nanak Dev University of Amritsar. He explained the amazing legacy of the Ghadar Movement and how it impacted revolutionary movements all over the world. “It is an honour to come to the home where the Ghadar Movement started and had its coordinating office inside the walled city”.

An interesting paper was read by James Elam from the Northwestern University, USA, on the ‘mutinous’ reading materials available to researchers. He was followed by Dr Tahir Kamran, the Iqbal Chair at the University of Cambridge in England, who dwelt on the influence of the revolutionary movement on Muslim trans-nationalism. He opened up a lot of questions that needed to be researched, and hoped that answers would be found to a lot of questions that our national narrative had left unanswered.

The British response to the Ghadar Movement was analysed by Dr Radha D’Souza of the University of Westminister, England, who explained the legal impact the movement had in the shape of legal remedies the British came up with to tackle “the Punjab troubles”. The 1924 Punjab Act introduced a so-called ‘liberal’ environment, which was followed by ‘separate electorates’ law in 1936, which led to the partition of the subcontinent. She suggested that the response to this revolutionary movement ultimately led to the Partition. Such divisive responses by Imperialist powers need to be better understood by the world.

In the second session, Japanse scholar Kaori Mizukami of the University of Tokyo explained the responses the Ghadarites got from Japanese and Chinese sources. The LUMS scholar Zaibun Nisa Aziz dwelt on the anti-colonial activism in exile between 1905 and 1920. Her paper was followed by an impressive paper on the North American connection and how Ghadar was launched in San Francisco.

The last session was entirely in the Punjabi language, a first for an international conference in Pakistan. The two speakers were Iqbal Qaiser of the Punjabi Khoj Garh and Maqsood Saqib. Their presentations were very impressive. The first day concluded with a ‘Heer’ recitation arranged by Huma Safdar.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2014




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