The Indian revolutionaries on foreign lands

Story by  Saquib Salim | Posted by  Aasha Khosa • 3 Months ago
Indian revolutionaries in Kabul where they announced a government in exile
Indian revolutionaries in Kabul where they announced a government in exile


Saquib Salim

On 24 April 1918, Ram Chandra was shot dead by Ram Singh in a courtroom in San Francisco, USA. A few moments later, a policeman shot Ram Singh. Who were these Indians? Ram Chandra and Ram Singh were the leaders of a revolutionary Ghadar Party in the USA. They were planning to wage a war against the British Empire with the help of the German government. Ram Singh suspected Chandra of being a traitor and thus he killed him on the last day of the trial.

Though Muslims and Sikhs were also accused of being part of the conspiracy, for some reason the case was famously called the Hindu German Conspiracy case. The German High Commissioner had allegedly provided the revolutionaries with money and arms.

Rabindranath Tagore was also featured in the charge sheet. It was accused that he took money from the revolutionaries in the USA and handed it over to the Japanese government to arrange for arms. It was the costliest court case ever argued in the USA till that time.

Indian revolutionaries had always used foreign territories to wage war against the British Empire. In 1845, Haji Imdadullah Muhajir Makki of Saharanpur went on the Haj with a plan to stay there. He wanted to teach at Makkah. Another Indian and his senior Maulana Ishaq met him in Makkah and asked him to return to India and wage a war against the English East India Company rule. Ishaq was one of the many Indian ulemas, who lived in Makkah and Medina to preach anti-colonialism among the pilgrims.

Imdadullah returned to India, planned a revolt in coordination with several leaders, and joined the War of Independence in 1857. He liberated Shamli for a few weeks before the English recaptured it. Thousands of his followers were killed in the battle and he moved to Makkah.

Imdadullah lived for 30 more years and used Makkah as a base to preach nationalism among Haj pilgrims from India and create links among different colonized nationalities.

Shyamji Krishna Varma, an Arya Samaj leader, established India House in London to train educated revolutionaries for the freedom struggle. V.D. Savarkar, Virendranath Chattopadhyay, Haider Raza, Ali Khan, Bipin Chandra Pal, and Acharya were a few prominent Indian revolutionaries trained at this hostel. They were given fellowships to study in England. Asaf Ali, who later argued the case of Bhagat Singh in court, was also associated with the India House. Savarkar’s book describing events of 1857 S inspired a generation of revolutionaries.

Madan Lal Dhingra was one of the most prominent revolutionaries from this house. He assassinated an English official after which the house had to be closed down. Savarkar was arrested and sent to Andamans. After that, these revolutionaries shifted bases to Berlin, Paris, etc.

Indians, especially Punjabis, living in the USA formed the Ghadar Party in 1913. Ghadar is a term used for the War of Independence of 1857. The party aimed to re-enact the scenario by making the Indian sepoys of the English army rebel.

The revolutionaries contacted Germany and Turkey for money and arms. A date doe revolt was fixed in India for the revolt. Hundreds of the revolutionaries came back to India in 1915, Rash Behari Bose, Jatin Bagha, and M N Roy were also working for the success of the plan. A traitor told the British about the plan. Hundreds of revolutionaries were caught and hanged in what came to be known as First Lahore Conspiracy. Kartar Singh Sarabha was one of the more famous among those hanged. Jatin Bagha was killed. Ras Behari Bose and M N Roy had to leave the country.

The Ghadar Party succeeded in causing a mutiny in Singapore. In February 1915, Indian soldiers killed English officers and captured the island country. It took two days and the help of the Russian and Japanese armies to recapture Singapore from the British. More than four dozen Indians were killed by a firing squad in a public execution. At least 40 of the killed soldiers were Muslims from Haryana.

Raja Mahendra Pratap was an Arya Samaj activist from Hathras. As the war started he travelled to Turkey and Germany where the Sultan and Kaiser respectively gave him letters of authority to form a provisional government of India at Kabul. He reached Afghanistan with a Ghadarite, Barkatullah, where Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi, a Deobandi scholar, was waiting for them. A provisional government with Pratap as the President, Barkatullah as the PM, and Ubaidullah as the Home Minister was formed in Kabul.

A plan to raise an army was also chalked out. Maulana Mahmood Hasan, a Deobandi scholar, and Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani were coordinating the efforts from Makkah. Letters written on silk cloth were used to communicate which were uncovered by British intelligence. Maulana Mahmood and Madani were arrested from Makkah and sent to Malta as prisoners of war. Hundreds of others were also arrested in what came to be known as the Silk Letter Conspiracy.

The war had ended. M. N Roy, Andul Rab, and MPT Acharya established a military school in Tashkent in the USSR. It trained mostly Muslims who migrated to Afghanistan after a fatwa asked them to in 1915. The people trained here took part in major revolutionary activities in India later on. Mian Akbar Shah is well known for his role in the famous escape of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose from Kolkata (Calcutta) to Peshawar. He is supposed to be the most important person to have planned and executed the escape in 1941.

Ubaidullah went to the USSR and traveled to several countries before settling at Makkah in the 1930s. He used it as a ground to preach like Maulana Ishaq and Imdadullah before him. In 1938 he returned to India and met Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. He planned future armed action with Netaji and gave him several contacts with Japan and Germany. Japan already had his old comrades in Raja Mahendra Pratap and Rash Behari Bose.

Around the same time Sardar Ajit Singh, an uncle of Bhagat Singh, and Iqbal Shaidai organized an army in Italy. They had been active in foreign lands since the last World War.

ALSO READ: Ghazwa-e-Hind is myth coined by Pakistani clerics under ISI instructions

The story of Netaji forming an army in Germany and later leading Azad Hind Fauj formed by Ras Behari Bose in Japan is well-known and needs no retelling.