Stockton: Ground Zero for India’s Independence Struggle
Stockton Gurdwara’s founders, Baba Jawala Singh and Baba Wasakha Singh, emigrated to the USA but never forgot their homeland of Punjab and its enslavement by the British Empire. They decided to pursue India’s independence from British occupation. On December 31st, 1913, the two Babas hosted the Gadri Conclave in Sacramento, CA to form the Ghadar Party.
The Ghadar Party was the first organized and sustained campaign of resistance against the British Empire’s occupation of the Indian subcontinent. It sent 616 members to India, of whom 527 were Sikhs. The Ghadarites hosted supporters of independence, assisted revolutionary ventures, and printed pro-liberty pamphlets and journals until India gained independence in 1947.
Ghadarites Martyred for India’s Independence
￼Ghadarites like 17-year-old Kartar Singh Sarabha began publishing The Ghadar, the USA’s first Punjabi-language newspaper. Born in the village of Sarabha near Ludhiana in 1896, Kartar Singh was soon stirred to patriotism by the growing nationalist movement in India. He did very well in his high school and college education, reading a great many books and committing himself to the printed word.
Kartar Singh decided to travel to America so he could live in a free country. He arrived in San Francisco in 1912. Many minorities faced severe discrimination in that era and the Sikhs also endured that burden. Bhagat Singh wrote:
“[Kartar Singh] would be very upset when he heard himself being called a damn Hindu or black man by the whites. At every step he felt his country’s dignity and respect in jeopardy. With the constant memory of home, he also visualized India – helpless and in chains. His tender heart began to harden gradually and his determination to sacrifice his life for the freedom of country began to become firm.”
The Ghadar, the first Punjabi-language newspaper in the United States, was first published on November 1st, 1913 by Kartar Singh, then aged 17, with financial support from Stockton Gurdwara Sahib. Seeking to do even more for the cause of independence, he returned to India in 1914 to organize ghadar (mutiny) against British occupation.
Tragically, the brilliant young man was arrested and executed by the British. He was hanged alongside Maratha Vishnu Ganesh Pingley and five other Ghadris. Only 19 when he was hanged on November 16, 1915, he died with the words: “Victory to Mother India.”