To suppress the Revolutionary Movement, the Government of India passed many repressive Acts, like the Prevention of Seditious Meetings Act (1907), many explosive Substances Act (1908) the Press Act (1910), etc. To avoid arrest, to protect themselves from the Press Act and to procure arms, many revolutionaries went abroad.
These revolutionaries included mainly ex-soldiers and peasants who had migrated from the Punjab to the USA and Canada in search of better employment opportunities. They were based in the US and Canadian cities along the western (Pacific) coast.
The Ghadr programme was to organise assassinations of officials, publish revolutionary and anti-imperialist literature, work among Indian troops stationed abroad, procure arms and bring about a simultaneous revolt in all British colonies.
The moving spirits behind the Ghadr Party were Lala Hardayal, Ramchandra, Bhagwan Singh, Kartar Singh Saraba Barkatullah, and Bhai Parmanand. The Ghadrites intended to bring about a revolt in India. Their plans were encouraged by two events in 1914- the Komagata Maru incident and the outbreak of the World War.
Komagata Maru was the name of a ship which was carrying 370 passengers, mainly Sikh and Punjabi Muslim would-be immigrants, from Singapore to Vancouver. They were turned back by Canadian authorities after two months of Privation and uncertainly. The ship finally anchored at Calcutta in September 1914. The inmates refused to board the Punjab bound train. In the ensuring conflict with the police at Budge Budge near Calcutta, 22 persons died.
Inflamed by this and with the outbreak of the First World War. The Ghadr leaders decided to launch a violent attack to oust British rule in India. They urged fighters to got to India. Kartar Singh Saraba and Raghubar Dayal Gupta left for India. Bengal revolutionaries were contacted Rashbehari Bose and Sachin Sanyal were asked to lead the movement. Political decoities were committed to raise funds.
The Ghadrites fixed Fabruary 21, 1915 as the date for an armed revolt in Ferozepur, Lahore and Rawalpindi garrisons. The plan was foiled at the last moment due to teachery. The authorities took immediate action.
Rebellious regiments were disbanded, leaders arrested and deported and 45 of them hanged.
For all practical purposes, the Ghadar Movement failed to achieve its political goals. The colonial state remained deeply entrenched in Punjab. However, something had changed. The spontaneous acts of bravery of these revolutionaries became part of folkore. While in their lifetimes they failed to see the fruits of the seeds they had sown, for generations to come after them, tales of their bravery were recalled to instil nationalist fervor in people.
Bhagat Singh was one such young man who was moved by the passion of these revolutionaries. It is believed he always carried a picture of Kartar Singh Sarabha in his pocket. And that all the meetings of the Naujawan Bharat Sabha, the party he founded, had a picture of the young revolutionary as well. Sixteen years after the First Lahore Conspiracy Trial, a second Lahore Conspiracy Case was heard against Bhagat Singh, which he – taking a leaf out of Sarabha’s book – used to promote his ideas of revolution. Like Sarabha, he became another young intellectual-revolutionary, whose sacrifice was meant to prick the conscience of the people.
Many other revolutionaries of the Ghadar Movement who escaped the wrath of the empire eventually formed other political organisations, the most prominent of which was the Kirti Kissan Sabha, a Marxist party particularly popular in the rural areas of Punjab. In 1928, they formed a crucial alliance with the Naujawan Bharat Sabha.
Thus, while the Ghadar Movement failed to achieve its revolutionary purpose, it managed to set into motion a series of important events – Jallianwala Bagh, the Non-Cooperation Movement of the 1920s, the demand for Purna Swaraj or complete self-rule – and inspired key figures in history such as Bhagat Singh, Subhas Chandra Bose and the Kirti Kissan Sabha. Through their heroism, it may be said the Ghadaris managed to spark a revolution.