Gurpreet Singh: Indo Canadian pioneers helped defuse tension after partition of India and Pakistan

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Vancouverites should be proud of Indo Canadian heroes who risked their lives to save innocent people in sectarian violence that broke out during the bloody partition of India and Pakistan in August 1947.

The two countries were one before partition, which resulted in a Muslim Pakistan and a Hindu-dominated India—but not a "Hindu India".

The border came with the independence of Pakistan and India from the British occupation on August 14 and 15 respectively. While Hindus and Sikhs were being targeted on the Pakistani side, Muslims were being murdered on the Indian side by religious fundamentalists.

However, this hatred failed to blind many progressive and secular revolutionaries who had organized themselves against the British occupation while being in Vancouver. Many of them returned to India to face the gallows or long imprisonment.

Those who survived not only challenged the religious extremists, but also saved refugees from the mass murderers. The majority of these men were associated with the Gadar Party that was launched in United States in 1913 and believed in an armed struggle against British omperialism. They were all Indian immigrants, who came to Canada as British subjects.

Blatant racism and discrimination against them back then had transformed these people into social-justice activists. They started believing that their lives could only change after their home country becomes free from foreign occupation.

The Gadar Party constitution was secular and emphasized keeping religion and politics apart. Although the majority of its members were Sikh, some of prominent leaders were Hindus and Muslims. This may have contributed to their motivation to staunchly oppose religious fanaticism.

A Surrey-based Punjabi historian, Sohan Singh Pooni, gives a detailed account of these revolutionaries in his book, Canade de Gadari Yodhey (The Gadar Heros of Canada). Going by the information in the book, many of these men who actually lived in Canada returned to pursue their struggle to help Muslim refugees reach Pakistan safely. They also formed peace committees to promote unity and brotherhood, and challenged religious extremism.

Among them were Sher Singh Vein Poin, Munsha Singh Dukhi, Bhagwan Singh Dosanjh, Bhag Singh Canadian, Bachint Singh, and Chainchal Singh Jandiala.

The maternal grandfather of former Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh also played a role in helping keeping Muslim refugees safe from Hindu and Sikh extremists. Moola Singh Bahowal spent final years of his life in Vancouver, and being a liberal Sikh, he worried about the growing challenge of Sikh fanaticism in Canada.

The father of an NDP MLA from Surrey, Jagrup Brar, also helped the Muslim refugees. Kaka Singh Brar's portrait is popular in the Indo Canadian community in Surrey.

At this time when we are all celebrating 125 years of Vancouver's history, the heroism of those great men who stood for true Canadian values should be recognized by the mainstream. The lesson that we as a society should also draw from their stories is to keep away from fundamentalist forces and make this world a better place to live.

Gurpreet Singh is a Georgia Straight contributor, and the host of a program on Radio India. He's working on a book tentatively titled Canada's 9/11: Lessons from the Air India Bombings.

Comments (4) Add New Comment
Shahzad Nazir Khan
My appreciation goes to writer who has highlighted the very positive role of some great non violent and non sectarian individuals during the partition riots of India and Pakistan in 1947. Hundreds of thousands of people died during this largest mass-migration of our human history and keeping in view the death toll, one can easily considered it as the biggest tragedy of 20th century too.The people of India and Pakistan, while being a true and an exact reflection to the phrase 'Children of a comman mother', are still witnessing the tragic part in shape of a consistent and constant hostile relationship between their governments. Since their birth, both countries have fought four heavily spending wars where as a huge majority of population is still living below the poverty levels. Both of the nations had spent billions of dollars so far to become the nuclear states but an ordinary person on each side is still looking to deal with the basic questions of food, shelter, clothing, health and education. Yes we need, the heros like them should (rather must) be acknowledged by the main stream media and by our general public and these stories should be part of our curriculam too. Its true that our world is in great need of more and more non violent, non sectarian, enlightened and secular individuals and forces to become a much better place to live in.
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Amandeep Singh
Lahore conspiracy trial. Savarkar was imprisoned for life. But got out in 1922. While Bhai Randhir Singh who got fooled in joining Chitpavan Brahmin conspiracy was in prison till 1932. Young Shaheed Kartar Singh Sarabha alongwith 30+ others were hanged. Main conspirator was Lala Hardayal. Lala Hardayal apologized to British and lead a normal life. Even did a PhD from University of London. Read Lala Hardayal's article glorifying the British on 8th June, 1919.

http://query.nytimes.com/mem/a?rchive-free/pdf?res=F10915FA34?5D147A93CA...

Indian Freedom movement was lead by Chitpavan Brahmins after their lost livelihood. From 1890's Chitpavan Chapekar brothers killed plague commissioner. Khatkar Kalan was first plague infected village in Punjab. Hence Bhagat Singh's family came under their scanner. Chitpavan also controlled Lala Hardayal. Chapekar, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Savarkar were all Chitpavan Brahmins. Nathuram Godse and his all 10 co conspirators were Chitpavan Brahmins.
Chitpavans did not like Baniya Gandhi getting control of Congress. Hence he was successfully killed by Chitpavan Brahmins in 5th attempt.

PhD thesis of Lala Hardayal after Kartar Singh Sarabha was hanged. This book should be discussed in centenary of Gadar party.

http://books.google.com/books??id=uUveqp7lAVoC
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no religion
so the gadar party were a great people? believed in an armed struggle against the british
canada was under britain why did they come here?
does that not make them millitants/terrorist as well?
what makes them different from taliban
i smell communists!
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Amandeep Singh
Lala Hardayal Mathur who got 24 hanged in 1915. Later apologized in 1918, did his PhD from University of London. Lala Hardayal's replacement in Ghadar Party Ram Chandra Sharma was shot for using money of Ghadar Party for personal gains. Ram Singh shot him as he had sold his land in California for Ghadar Party.

http://query.nytimes.com/mem/a?rchive-free/pdf?res=F00612FB34?5B11738DDD...
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