May 1913 found me organizing our countrymen in British Columbia, Canada. There I clashed with an Englishman by the name of Hopkinsen who had been sent by the
British Government of India, in order to keep the community of 4,000 Indians living in Canada, disunited. It was due to his zeal, plus the cooperation of our traitors, that the United League and Guru Nanak Mining Company ceased to function. Both had previously been organized by Prof. Teja Singh, M.A. I succeeded in re-organizing them and in unifying not only the Sikhs among themselves, but the Indian community as a whole, Moslems and Hindus, hence the clash. Two months after my arrival I was arrested but released on a $2,000 bail. There was no case against me.
However, Mr. Hopkinson who, besides being official interpreter for the Indian was also Inspector of Immigration, together with Mr. Reed, Immigration Commissioner, never relinquished their efforts until they secured a special order from the Governor General of Canada for my deportation. Thus, five months after my landing in Canada, I was dragged out in the middle of the night of November 18, 1913, from the home of Babu Harnam Singh (later martyred for the cause), and deported, even though two writs of Habeas Corpus had been issued, one in Victoria, the other in Vancouver, B.C. I was man-handled, injured physically, literally thrown on the “Empress of Japan” destination, India. Later, this same Hopkinson was shot and killed by one of our own, Bhai Mewa Singh, who paid the full penalty, being hanged. Thus, my exit from Canada was affected on November 19, 1913.
Inspite of my injuries, I managed to escape my guard once in Japan. Continuing the journey to India would have been fatal. I was aware of the fate of a “rebel” once in the hands of offended oligaroh. In Japan I stayed with Maulana Maulvi Barak Tullah, who was a professor of languages at the Imperial University in Tokyo. The need to secure arms and ammunition caused me to leave Japan in March 1914 for Germany on a Japanese ship, but I was discovered by the British in Shanghai. Upon reaching Hong Kong a warrant was issued for my arrest and the ship was searched. However through the assistance of the Captain, I was disguised as a Japanese after losing my beard and hair, and set abroad an Australian Cargo ship on its way to Japan. Once in Tokyo, I rejoined Prof. Barak Tullah and for the second time met Dr. Sun Yat Sen and also the Sung Sisters who were on their way from the United States to China. Later, one of them was destined to become Mae. Sun Yat Sem and the other Mae. Chiang.
Prof. Barak Tullah and myself decided to leave for the United States and on May 23 rd 1914 we landed in San Francisco. We immediately went to the Gadar Ashram, 430 Hill St., where to our dismay we learned that Dr. Har Dayal, one of the Founders, had voluntarily left for Europe in order avoid being deported. He had been arrested in March. The Gadar Ashram and been left in the care of a Committee presided over Sri Sohan Singh, Bhakna. Shortly after our arrival, I was elected President, Prof. Barak Tullah, Vice President and Pandit Ram Chandra given the responsibility of the “Hindustan Gadar”, our weekly official publication. Moreover, the three of us were appointed Commissioners. Five months later, the 1st World War was declared.
A commission Meeting was held at 436 Hill St., San Francisco on August 15th, 1914 to reconsider and revise our plans, disturbed and altered by the advent of the War. At this meeting the following three decisions were taken:
First: In the name of India Nationalism, we should declare OPEN WARFARE against British Rule in India and proclaim India a FREE and SOVEREION REPUBLIC. Up to now agitations had been carried on by intelligentsia against particular grievances or for specific needs. Now, it was decided to advocate the open foster REBELLION on MASS scale which would be difficult for the British to suppress or to bribe its leaders.
Second: All means should be used; every advantage taken, no matter from what quarter it may come. Connections should be established with active Revolutionary Movements of other countries of and central Governments such as Germany, Austria, etc., with nations whose interests and relations were in direct conflict with the British.
Third: The collection of funds, armaments, etc., should be intensified and students sent to be trained in the Military Academies of other Nations whenever and wherever possible. Appeals should be made to Indians everywhere to proceed to India and start fighting for "freedom". The Gadar Press could be used to serve these various aims.
Other points equally urgent were discussed from every angle within the range of our knowledge and the existing conditions. We were fully aware of our lack of facilities in transportation, communication, military equipment, material, men and money with which to wage a successful revolution. We were also conscious that we would have to struggle not only against the British, but against all her allies who were enjoying concession at our expense. It was also clear to us that outside the Revolutionary Movement in Bengal the rest of the country was asleep and wholly unprepared though willing to cooperate and be drained of men, money and material by their British Masters. Fight they MUST, but not for freedom of their country but against a nation with whom they had no quarrel, but whose rising power the British could not tolerate. Black clouds of despair hung all over our Indian horizon. Our one ray of hope was our Countrymen’s love for their Motherland. We hoped and dared to expect that through our appeal some would wake.
The immediate question was: “Shall we DARE defy British Imperialism or shall we remain INACTIVE and let the present opportunity pass by?" A CHALLANGE was presented to our manhood, INDIA'S MANHOOD, which could only be met in a "manly" manner through action.
The decision was unanimous: "accept the challenge and ACT." Better to fail in the attempt than to do NOTHING. Our decision was "TO GOAND DIE", thus proving to ourselves and to the world that India, in spite of their old age, was ALIVE, a nation capable of rejuvenation.
Henoe, "THE DECLARATION OF WAR" which appeared i the "Hindustan Gadar" date (?) August or September 1914.
The outcome of this meeting was that Prof. Barak Tullah, a Moslem Divine, well versed in the languages of the Near East was sent to Afghanistan, Persia Turkey, etc. Pandit Ram Chandra was to remain in San Francisco in publication of the “Hindustan Ghadar” and I was assigned to cover the Far East and to return once more to Asia. My ventures there were numerous, dangerous and some doomed to failure, but it was during this period that I met Shri Rash Behari Boss, Mr. M.N. Roy, Lala Lajpat Rai and others. All these events and full details of other important facts not even mentioned in this “brief sketch” are described in the “Autobiography” under preparation. Suffice it to say that I traveled through Japan, North and South China, Korea, Manchuria, and the Phillipines. I witnessed the Third Chinese Revolution; the first was in 1911 when I was priest in Hong Kong; the second was when I met Dr. San Yat Sen after he fled from Shanghai in 1913, the third, in 1916, when we met again following his failure to oust Yuan Shi Kai.
It was in Nanking, China, while on an interned German Gunboat that I wrote a booklet entitled “Junk or Azadi” – “War and Freedom” – which embodied the aims discussed at our Commission Meeting in San Francisco and which was distributed among Indians all over Malaya, Hongkong, Shanghi, and in the Phillipines wherever Punjabi was read. It was my first effort in writing and approximately 2,00,000 copies were circulated. They were also sent to the 35,000 Indian War Prisoners held in Germany, most of whom were Sikhs. As a result of the “Declaration of War” and the appeal to our countrymen published in the “Hindustan Gadar” and this booklet – “Jung aur Azadi” – more than 10, 000 patriots from all over the world responded by going to India to fight for her freedom.
It was due to their activities and the trials in the so-called “Conspiracy Cases” at Delhi, Lucknow, Lahore, Amritsar, Meerut, Mandaly, etc., that the “Rowlett Act” which in turn produced the massacre of Jalianwala Bagh, in Amritsar, and the awakening of India. It was in this manner that the field contribution of the Gadar Party be denied?
It is common knowledge that these same Patriots, these brave men, were banded as out-throats and thugs, that they were hunted down, spied upon, denounced as disturbers of peace, treated as criminals, even shot, hanged and imprisoned. This “Saga of Heroism” is still to be written.
While in the Phillipines I was arrested twice and ordered to leave Manila. Twice also did I escape arrest in China, once in Sing Tao which was under Japanese Martial law, and two days later in Tientsin. It was while in China also that warrants were issued for my arrest as well as those of Sri Rash Behari Bose and Bhai Gopal Singh.
I left China in June 1916 landing in San Francisco sometime in July but as I did so without passport of ticket my stay was of three days only. I then proceeded to South America by way of Panama. There the British Minister has informed the foreign Office that I was a Moslem and since Panama is a Catholic country opposed to polygamy, -which is reputed to be practiced by the Moslems- I was automatically disqualified and ordered to leave. Such was the might of the British veracity.
On my way to America abroad a U. S Fruit Company's ship, I was removed at Havana, held for three days by the immigration and sent back to Panama without reason. To this day I have been unable to learn how any Cuban authority could take a passenger from an American ship and by what law my journey was interrupted. Nor did the U.S Fruit Co. ever refund my ticket which was from Panama to Galveston, Texas. In Panama on the advice of General George Goethal, then Governor of the Canal Zone, and who was also the builder of the Canal, I gave up going to South America and re-entered the United States legally, landing in New York October 11, 1916.
Mr. Harish Chandra Sharma, son of Mahatma Munshi Ram was in New York to meet me. He had been sent by Pandit Ram Chandra with $3,000 and an urgent request that I proceed immediately to Germany to work among the 35,000 War Prisoners there. During my short stay in San Francisco in July, I had been informed that all was not well at Gadar Ashram. There was a general revolt against Panjit Ram Chandra for his misuse of authority and Gadar Funds, but I could not take up these complaints then, because of my illegal entry. Now, I decided to go to California instead of proceeding to Germany as directed and from here begins the most devastating chapter of my life.
Six months later the United States entered the War, April 7th, 1917. Twenty-four hours later, nineteen of us were arrested as well as Germans, Irish and others and the famous “San Francisco Conspiracy Case”, for the violation of the neutrality of the United States, began. Besides this international struggle I uncovered the sordid mess of Pandit Ram Chandra's doings within the Party itself. The Constitution prepared by Dr. Har Dayal had been destroyed, and a new one written and approved according to which all authority of the Gadar Party was vested in Panjit Ram Chandra and incorporated with the support of two other members, Mr. Gobin Behari Lal & Mr. Harish Chandra Sharma as well as the “Hindustan Gadar”, the Party's Official Organ, as their own private Corporation. Gadar Funds were misappropriated. More than $15,000 cash had been deposited in the name of Panjit's wife. Properties were purchased in the name of Panjit's personal friends who were not even members of the Party. The two lots on Wood St., where the present Ashram stands, had been put in the name of Mr. Reed, and American gentleman.
Twenty such charges were brought before the meeting of the Executive Board held at Gadar Headquarters, 436 Hill St., S.F., in the presence of 27 members of the Committee appointed by Pandit Ram Chandra himself. After hearing but three of these charges, Pandit Ram Chandra ran out of the meeting refusing to return. A two-member commission was then appointed to investigate the charges. The misdeeds were revealed, and the charges confirmed whereupon the Gadar Council demanded and obtained Pandit Ram Chandra's resignation. It was following the disgraceful dismissal that he constructed to build the present Ashram at 5 Wood Street in opposition to the legally constituted Gadar Centre. More-over, he bought a new press and issued a second “Hindustan Gadar Paper” in open defiance, continuing to do until his death. Thus, it was that two Hindustan Gadar Papers appeared at the same time in San Francisco (Details of these happenings are included in the “History of the Gadar Party” published soon, though requests were made to suppress them.)
In the “San Francisco Conspiracy Case” three of us, Dr. Tarak Nath Das, Bhai Santokh Singh and myself drew the maximum sentence of two years at McNeils' Island Federal Penitentiary and Gopal Singh one year plus one day. Two of the others served light sentences at the City Jail and the rest were freed. The “Case” was considered the biggest in the State of California, it continued for six months which is a matter of court record. As my bail had been set at $25,000, the highest amount of any, I remained in jail allowing other their liberty. Federal Judge Van Fleet before pronouncing the sentence addressed himself to me, say: “I regret, Bhagwan Singh, that the law does not allow me to impose stiffer sentence upon you than the two-year limit. I will recommend that the penalty in such cases be increased.” Our lawyer, Mr. Timothy Healy, at this point requested His Honour to consider the fact that I had already served six months in jail, whereupon instead of my sentence being increased, His Honour begrudgingly reduced it to eighteen months. According to the San Francisco “Chronicle” the “Conspiracy Case” cost the British Government three and a half million dollars and the United States, five hundred thousand. I have often wondered who was responsible for opening the case.
Almost three months before the end of my sentence, “Deportation proceedings” were brought against me by the immigration authorities…This episode is also given in detail in the Autobiography…The final issue was, that failing all other means, the Ghadar Party delegated me to Washington, D.C. and plead my own case, which I did in 1920, the case was dropped.
The reorganization of the Gadar Party occupied the next period. I also attempted farming but was not very successful mainly due to the great depression at that time. Ten thousand Banks went under and I too failed with them. In the meantime, I was recalled to the Gadar Party, however I definitely resigned on January 1st, 1928.
From 1928 I was engaged in my own work, writing, lecturing, teaching. For years I had made special studies in Creative Psychology and Sociology, evolving a simple, practical and scientific philosophy for modern needs. It is a “Pattern Theory for Adult Education”. This I was now prepared to test and to unfold. I have spoken in every city of the United States with a population over 300,000 except in the State of Maine. I have addressed High Schools, Colleges, Universities, Associations, Clubs, Churches, private organizations, as well as Radio audiences; also, have founded the “Humanology Society” and organized “The American Institute of Culture” with affiliated “Self-Culture Association” in many large cities. I have written several books. There is quite a deal of unedited, unpublished material still pending covering various subjects of human interest besides a library of three hundred tapes and a gross record embodying the “Fundamentals” of my work.
In 1948 at the request of my countrymen, once more I gave up my own work and returned to the Pacific Coast to serve them holding meetings, editing and publishing a monthly periodical “Nav-Yug” for eighteen months. As soon as India was FREE, I applied for my passport to return home, but in spite of repeated enquiries. I did not receive it for over two years.
At long last, upon the invitation of Sri Partap Singh Kairon, Chief Minister of the State of Punjab, after nearly fifty years in foreign lands, I am HOME. I left incognito under an assumed name to work for freedom, I return a FREE man on an Indian ship under own flag.
My dear Countrymen and Fellow Citizens,
I salute and greet you! I leave to your imagination the ecstatic joy I am privileged to experience. By Birth and by Choice, I am an INDIAN, human in disposition and attitude and scientific in outlook. I have national pride both racial and geographical; am not slow at learning new lessons and have no mental nor spiritual rheumatism to prevent moving in any direction or to destroy my flexibility.
So much for now…My personal life is not for public interest. If more is required of my activities it is all at your disposal. I hope I have not bored you with this accumulation of facts, movements, failures, impression and aspiration….
THE ENTIRE PAST IS NOT VALUABLE ENOUGH FOR THE SAKE OF WHICH
ONE MOMENT OF CREATIVE FUTURE SHOULD BE SACRIFICED.
(This is a copy, in part of a letter sent to the Consul General of India in San Francisco in 1950, at his request, with some additions.)
Source: Brief Sketch of Life Lived by Bhagwan Gyanne