The birthplace to India’s freedom from British Rule started in Astoria, Oregon, May 1913

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The birthplace to India’s freedom from British Rule started in Astoria, Oregon, May 1913

Oregon Astoria July 17 ( Raj Gogna)—In the spring of 1913, East Indians formed the radical nationalist Ghadar Party in Astoria. The meeting was held in the Finnish Socialist Hall, reflecting the important ties and comradery East Indian activists had, in Astoria and elsewhere, with socialists, radical labor organizers, and Irish, Finnish, Mexican, and Chinese nationalists. East Indians were sometimes called “coolie slaves” and targeted by white violence. With time and experience, many East Indians came to believe that the lack of self-rule in their country was the cause of their suffering and disrespect the world over, and they vowed to make change. After years of work and discussion, East Indian laborers, activists, students, and intellectuals organized and attended Ghadar’s founding meeting in Astoria, arriving by rail, boat, and car and on foot from British Columbia, San Francisco, and communities along the Columbia River.
The word ghadar translates as mutiny or revolution, and it indicates its adherents’ strategy. With the outbreak of World War I, four to five thousand men left the West Coast for India. Joined by men from the Philippines, Singapore, and beyond, they aimed to persuade the long-serving Sikhs of the British military to mutiny and thereby spark an armed general insurrection to end British rule. Their immediate plan was unsuccessful, and in India most were hung or jailed for life. In San Francisco, the home of Ghadar’s headquarters and newspaper, leading Ghadarites were tried and convicted in the then-largest federal trial ever mounted. Yet despite these significant setbacks, many today in India and in the larger diasporic community consider the Ghadar Party the opening salvo—imaginatively and practically—of the fight for Indian independence, which formally occurred in 1947.
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