India's Ghadar Party Born in San Francisco

Unfinished History

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The Ghadar Memorial sits at 5 Wood Street above Geary Blvd. near Masonic.

Photo: Chris Carlsson

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The original headquarters of the Ghadar Party are in San Francisco where a new building erected after the demolition of 5 Wood Street preserves the Ghadar legacy.

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The Ghadar Party was established in 1913 by Taraknath Das and Har Dayal to agitate for Indian independence from Great Britain. At the outset of World War I many Ghadarites (almost a thousand) went to India to stir up a revolt, but because they were heavily surveillanced and infiltrated by British intelligence they were arrested upon landing. Das and others in the U.S. were arrested and threatened with deportation for their political activities. Defending the Ghadarites in the U.S. from deportation became a civil rights issue for anti-imperialists and the Left in general. The IWW, the SLP, and an assortment of liberals came together to organize the Friends of Freedom for India (FFI) and lobbied for the protection of the right of aliens to engage in political activity in the United States. The FFI even persuaded Samuel Gompers, no friend of Asians, to allow the AFL to champion these rights. Nevertheless in 1914, Congress passed a bill that made aliens who advocated political change in any country liable to deportation. The effects of this legislation are still felt today, with members of the IRA and PLO threatened with deportation from the U.S. for their political activities. The Ghadar Party, its hopes for a popular uprising disappointed, its leadership dispersed and under heavy persecution, and its organization infiltrated, collapsed after Ram Chandra, a leader of the group, was assassinated in 1918.

--Northern Calif. Coalition on Immigrant Rights

For much deeper insight: "Encounters with Ghadar" by Vijay Prashad on Counterpunch.org


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