Indian Diaspora has been an essential bearer of nationalistic emotions. In the time of peace, it was the largest community as entrepreneur. They have made their marks in almost all fields of life. Since pre-historic times they have crossed the borders to propagate religion, culture, learning and arts, thus widening trade and professions across the continents. The glory of India has spread due to their diligence and committed endeavours towards Bharat. In the course of time, due to colonization, after a long saga of struggle, their success story stands out remarkably amidst the tales of torture, disrespect, indentureship, and subjugation. The call from motherland has always remained sacred for Indian Diaspora. The bond always brought them closer to shared destinies. This has been the main reason that freedom struggle for India was not only fought in India but also in nations which hosted Indians.
The struggle for freedom has been a combined effort where diaspora community experienced the complexity of migrants’ experiences on one hand and the different degrees of emotions to which they feel connected to origin societies. Like all other movements, the Indian Diaspora is also the result of different waves of migration over hundreds of years driven by a variety of reasons-theology, religious tours, mercantilism, colonialism, brain drain and globalization.
The destinies of India and the Diaspora are intertwined. It is much required to acknowledge their efforts for mutually contributed relationship. It’s time to hear these loud voices and react to their implications. In addition to human efforts, many organisations, memorials and events too contributed to raising the spirit
The inclination towards nationalistic solipsism often disguises the complex set of global historical constellations, transnational political interaction and translocal ideological exchanges that are constitutive factors of most national movements. Fortunately, there are some exceptions to this rule, even among nationalists themselves. In his book Young India, the Indian political activist and amateur historian Lala Lajpat Rai, for instance, acknowledged the formative impact of global factors on Indian nationalist politics. The book, published in 1917, contains a short chapter on the ‘world forces’ that shaped the Indian national movement.”
By and large the narratives of freedom struggle have charted out few known endeavors and celebrated their contribution, but it not yet recognises many other such attempts. Addressing this today becomes imperative, otherwise as a nation we shall fail in paying due homage to our freedom fighters in entirety.
The efforts chart out since the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. All types of efforts created an overseas fervour among the people emotionally affiliated with India. Some were inclined to spread patriotic connect through writings, others were portraying solid actions while many were engaged in supporting entire struggle with money, networking, or strategic support. Its high time that we recognise these efforts by Indian diaspora. It’s been long that they have remained unsung or underrated. Their glory must be restored. Its high time that their efforts are made public with reverences. Apart from individuals, several organisations too inspired monumental activities. So much so that memorials have been created out of these activities. Some buildings have become iconic in the course of time. Many a times events too became landmarks in the history of freedom struggle.
The diaspora endeavour in freedom struggle is divided into different segments. Bharat, then undivided, witnessed efforts from many quarters and people. Today these people may be considered as other nationals or the diaspora. The countries like Afghanistan, Burma, Bangladesh, and Pakistan have been included because many freedom fighters have been forgotten by them. Bharat can never forget their contributions. Most highlighted here is the efforts by Bhagat Singh whom Bharat sees as an iconic martyr, but Pakistan doesn’t consider him among the freedom fighters. Similarly, some incidents triggered struggle for freedom. These may also include books like Hind Swaraj.
Maharani Jinda Rani Kaur is considered to be the first revolutionary queen of Punjab and due to her valour she was called at that time as the ‘Lioness of Lahore’. She pledged that she would kill the British only by repulsing them. That is why she was considered the greatest enemy of the British. The biggest enemy of the British, this heroine of Punjab was the youngest queen of Punjab Kesari Maharaja Ranjit Singh. When Maharaja Ranjit Singh died on June 27, 1839, rivers of blood were flowing in Punjab. The British were targeting Punjab. In such odd circumstances, Empress Jinda came out of the screen, organized her army, gave a speech in front of it, encouraged it and declared her five-year-old son Dilip Singh as the king and took the reins of governance and organized and worked. Lord Dalhousie, seeing her valour, had said, “Rani Jinda is more powerful than all the military power of the state.” She was imprisoned but she eascaped to Nepal in the form of a sanyasi. and met Begum Hazrat Mahal and Nana saheb. Planned a detailed revolutionary action but the plan made by the Queen Jinda in Nepal to defeat the British, remained incomplete. The reason was that in August 1883, at the age of 44, Queen Jinda died suddenly. The Kantikaris were shocked, but by following the courage, valour and courage of Queen Jinda, they finally succeeded in getting the motivation of spirit of freedom of that revolutionary Queen.
INA was formed in Japan and its founder Rash Behari Bose was successful in convincing Japan Government to support the efforts. He later gave charge to Subhash Chandra Bose. Azad Hind Fauz was then nurtured by him. Parallel efforts were made by Jatindra Nath Mukherjee (also known as Bagha Jatin) who had a close meeting with German Crown Prince who assured to help freedom fighters overseas with finance and armoury in case of war. Bagha Jatin was successful in almost all prominent continents like USA, Canada, and Europe through Jugantar to engage Indian freedom fighters.
Two younger brothers of Swami Vivekananda, Tarak Nath Das and Bhupendra Nath Das from California University and Georgetown University met Lala Hardayal. A South Asian Magazine Free Hindustan by Das become the mouthpiece of Indian freedom struggle. This effort led to the formation of Gadar Party. Many prominent freedom fighters like Gurun Ditt Kumar, Harnam Singh, Professor Suren Bose, M. N. Roy, Vhampekraman Pillai, M. N. Roy and Virendra Nath Chattopadhya took the freedom struggle to wide acceptance by the community and governmnts.
Sarojin Naidu’s brother Vinerndranath Chattopadhya took charge of activities under Plan Zimmerman in Germany. This led to help the freedom fighters in Germany, Italy and France. Its worth mentioning that Sarojini Naidu notified British against her brother’s activities. He was the much sought after by Scotland Yard police.
There came a time when Jugantar leader Bagha Jatin came in contact with Gadar leaders and started fierce efforts. A planned activity began under the aegis of Rash Behari Bose & Bagha Jatin. There was an effort to form an Indian army of imprisoned Indians who can enter India from two sides, first from Arab countries and they planned to enter through Peshawar and from second side in Thailand and Burma to enter Calcutta. Though this plan was sabotaged and failed.
This failure did not dampen Bagha Jatin and he continued efforts one after other like Vessel Annie Larsen & S. S. Maverik, Czech counter espionage network and Spy ‘C’.
Singapore mutiny in 1915 has a special place in this list. For seven days the revolt continued, It surely ennerved British Government. At the same time the Gadar movement continued. The Berlin Committee under Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh along with Maulana Barkatullah Khan was successful in forming first free provisional Government in Afghanistan in Kabul on December 1, 1915. Many countries recognised the government including Germany, Austria, Hungry, Bulgaria and others. In Hindu-German conspiracy trial by USA in 1917 many Gadar leaders were convicted in this connection. This formation of Government is neither widely talked about nor known. Most of the people think Government formed by Azad Hind Fauz in Adaman by Subhash Chandra Bose was the first independent government. Which was much later than the Kabul government.
This entire legacy impacted young minds of India including Bhagat Singh. There are many martyrs in world war-I & world war-II who laid down their lives fighting for British. Though they were not fighting for Indian freedom, but they fought for the assurance of freedom for India. Their efforts need due mention. Two villages in France specially commemorate their martyrdom in the form of memorials. About 30000 lives were sacrificed in those two villages while about one lac soldiers laid down themselves in WW 1 and WW 11. These memorials are known as Neuve Chapelle India Memorial (France) and Indian War Memorial (France),
INA and Azad Hind Fauz led to a number of noticeable incidents in India. Such as Naval Revolt 1946. This becomes major threat to British which they feared in 1857 like incident.
People, monuments, organizations, and events thus create a synthetcised mosaic to portray the breadth and length of involvement of overseas Indians in freedom struggle of India. Leaving other aspects and concentrating on human efforts shall make a study limited, hence an effort is initiated to record the role of Indian Diaspora in struggle for freedom concerning with people, places, memorials, and events who made distinguished contribution.
Its the time to pay homage to Madam Bhikaji Cama whom we pay tribute as the unfinished sonnet of women power, Maulana Muhammad Barkatullah – first Prime Minister of the Azad Hind Government, Venkatesa Subramaniam Aiyar ( V. V. S. Aiyar): the early Tamil freedom fighter in Europe, Madan Lal Dhingra: the Extended Pride, Lala Hardayal: The Father of Gadar Movement, Champak Raman Pillai – Hitler reprimand freedom fighter, Raja Mahendra Pratap – who created the Azad Hind Fauj, Manvendra Nath Rai – a revolutionary who was also a messiah of laborers, Rishikesh Latta – the founder of the Gadar Party, Sardar Kartar Singh ‘Sarba’ – who kissed the hanging at the age of 19 in a country that wasn’t his homeland. Among the associates of Gandhi prominent associates were Doctor Manilal (Manilal Maganlal Shah) in Mauritius and Fiji and Totaram Sandhya in Fiji. Their voices led to abolishment of many repressive acts of colonisers. Moreover they played a pivotal role in sending signals back home about the British atrocities, which impacted the freedom struggle and its intensity in India.
It’s also noteworthy that many freedom fighters deserve names from various countries from former undivided Bharat. From Pakistan Bhagat Singh as mentioned earlier as a figure of daring, Mir Masti Afridi as celebrity with achievement, and Jogendra Nath Mandal as a ray of hope for Bengali Population in Pakistan region are now forgotten by Pakistan but Bharat cannot ever repay their contribution to freedom struggle.
From Bangladesh Basu Binoy Krishna a man of revolutionary activities, Badal Gupta and his brothers as brave heroes as armed men, Dinesh Chandra Gupta as true hero, Suraya Sen full of bravery, Rokeya Sekhwat Hossain being the greatest woman personality, and Matangini Hazra the courageous woman cant be ever forgotten.
From Burma Saraswathi Rajamani a dedicated woman, Lakshmi Sehgal the wholehearted woman, Janaki Thevar a young enthusiastic girl, V. Rathinam an expert politician made their commendable contribution.
From Afghanistan Abdul Ghaffar Khan a man of milestone, Emir Sher Ali Khan a man of true faith and Ghazi Amanullah Khan and his sovereign have made their immortal contribution in the freedom struggle.
There are several Indian Diaspora Organizations in struggle for freedom which have become the epitome of freedom struggle. Some of them with their year of establishment are: The First Vedanta Society (Branches of Ramkrishana Mission) (1894), India House (1904), India Home Rule society (India House) (1904), Abhinav Bharat (1906), Indian Independence (1907), Tolstoy Farm (1910), Gadar Party (1913), Indian Independence League (1914), Indian Independence League & Government (1915)
Among prominent Memorials these landmarks in various countries can never be forgotten in the freedom struggle: Tolstoy Farm (South-Africa), India House (London), The London India House (London), Apravasi Ghat (Mauritius), Neuve Chapelle India Memorial (France), Indian War Memorial (France), The Suriname Memorial (India), Gadar Memorial Hall (Yugantar Ashram) (USA), Gadar Party Martyrs Memorial Hall (Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall) (Punjab).
What better can be the time when India celebrates 75th year of independence. The efforts rendered overseas by its Diaspora must be commemorated in adoration. Let these narratives motivate many others who left the motherland and settled afar. Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle for ending institutionalized discrimination against Indians in South Africa became an inspiring legend for enduring sentimentalism about the diaspora in modern India. Shyam ji Krishna Varma, Veer Savarkar, Madam Lal Dhingra and Lala Lajpat Rai are some of those tales who have become living legends and immortal icons in the tales of freedom struggle of India. Swami Vivekananda took it from words, Lala ji from writings, Savarkar, Dhingra and Gandhi through actions. They created a saga of models which became a vehicle for promoting the cause of Indian independence among the political elites of major countries. As the independence movement gathered momentum at home, it began to influence many Indian communities abroad. Not limiting to this each one inspired other nation to choose the path of struggle as it suited their needs and calibre.
Among the overseas efforts, some mention about foreigners who played pivotal role in Indian Freedom Struggle must be mentioned here. Among the prominent ones are Annie Besant who was inspired by the relentless struggle for independence against British rule and gradually became an active part of it. Charles Freer Andrews who played a significant role in persuading Gandhi to return to India with him in 1915. He took Gandhi to the Second London Round Table Conference and helped him negotiate with the British government on Indian autonomy and power transfer. Due to his contribution to India’s struggle, he was referred to as Dinabandhu. Madeleine Slade, popularly known as Mirabehn. Mirabehn worked as a dedicated activist in spreading the spirit of non-violence and was considered an essential participant in the Indian independence movement by the British. Satyananda Stokes, was an American who worked incessantly for India’s freedom and later settled in India. He was stunned by the Jallianwala Massacre when the British killed thousands of people. This incident changed his life, and he decided to join Indian politics. Sister Nivedita was an Irish woman, and a follower of Swami Vivekanand. After coming to India, she contributed in the India’s struggle for freedom. She was a close companion of Annie Besant and Sri Aurobindo and played a paramount role in women’s education. Mira Alphonse popularly known as ‘Mother‘, was born in Paris in 1978. Her role in enriching the rich heritage and culture is immense. Verrier Elwin was a colonial bishop who with leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and assisted him in his freedom struggle. Alfred Webb, an Irishman, and a close associate of the Dadabhai Noaroji, who explained the meticulous details regarding the draining of Indian wealth by the Britishers and opened their eyes regarding British intentions.
As we celebrate 75 years of independence from colonial rule, its time to reflect upon the efforts and missions of Indian diaspora which not only helped in raising the flame but also set active stage for actions in much needed environment. It created an extended uprising from all nook and corner of the world and rendered highest level of support in regaining freedom for India.
The narratives compiled here shall move the discourse further. The need of the hour is not limited to academics or research, it has crossed notion of exposing the truth. Coherence is ensured so that they contribute to the objectives of nationalism, and we pay due respects to their struggles.