GOPIO Commemorates Gadar Centennial in Maryland

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August 7, 2013

By Geeta Goindi

Rockville, MD – Commemorating 100 years of the Gadar Movement, on July 28, the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) paid tribute to the patriots who sacrificed all to liberate India from British colonial rule.

August 7, 2013

By Geeta Goindi

Rockville, MD – Commemorating 100 years of the Gadar Movement, on July 28, the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) paid tribute to the patriots who sacrificed all to liberate India from British colonial rule.

Indian Ambassador Mrs. Nirupama Rao (eighth from left) is flanked by the organizers of the Gadar Centennial Commemoration and GOPIO leaders and members, in Rockville.  Photo credit: Bala Chandran, Asian Ocean Media

The Gadar Party was founded in 1913 by Punjabis in the United States and Canada.  The Gadarites, as they are called, were based primarily in California and constituted farmers and students.  Their mission was to free India from British hegemony.  They are the true heroes and theirs was the true struggle! They left a legacy which is formidable to follow!  And our history is all the more richer for their awe-inspiring contributions!

Addressing a community gathering at a reception in Rockville, chief guest Indian Ambassador Mrs. Nirupama Rao noted, “the word ‘Gadar’ literally means revolution.  It was a revolution that in many ways heralded the independence movement of India”, she said, adding, “the Gadar Movement is a milestone in our freedom movement”.

Indian Ambassador Mrs. Nirupama Rao (sixth from left) is flanked by organizers of the Gadar Centennial Commemoration in Rockville, MD.  Photo credit: Bala Chandran, Asian Ocean Media

The envoy pointed out that what sets the Gadar Movement apart is “that spirit of sacrifice, that spirit of courage that was exemplified by these young men from all over India, but basically from Punjab.  The Gadarites had to suffer death and imprisonment in the hands of the British”, she noted.

The reception, held at the Hilton hotel, drew a number of distinguished guests including: Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler; Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett; Dr. Rajan Natarajan, Maryland Deputy Secretary of State for Policy and External Affairs; Maryland Delegate Aruna Miller (Democrat), District 15, Montgomery County; and Indian-American community leaders.  It was preceded by an educational seminar on the Gadar Movement featuring speakers from across the country including: Professor Harbans Lal of Texas; Mr. Samip Mullick of Pennsylvania; Dr. Sambhu Banik and Dr. Joy Cherian of Maryland; and Mr. Ashok Madan and Mr. Inder Singh of California.

The program was held under the ensign of GOPIO and spearheading the efforts were Dr. Renuka Misra, Event Chair and GOPIO National Coordinator, Dr. Satish Misra, Co-Chair, Dr. Zafar Iqbal, President of the DC Chapter, Mr. Walton Dawson and Dr. Ram Singh.

Mr. Inder Singh (center), Chairman of GOPIO International presenting his book, ‘The Gadar Heroics’, to Indian Ambassador Mrs. Nirupama Rao.  At right is Dr. Renuka Misra, Chair of the Gadar Centennial Commemoration held in Rockville and GOPIO National Coordinator.  Photo credit: Bala Chandran, Asian Ocean Media

Ambassador Rao told the gathering that she believed the Gadarites were inspired by “the democracy, the freedom that they saw in the United States to resist, to fight against colonial rule in India”.

Mentioning the names of some prominent Gadarites – Baba Har Dayal, Govind Bihari Lal, Kartar Singh Sarabha, Vishnu Ganesh Pingle, Gurmukh Singh, Sachindra Nath Sanyal and Jawala Singh – the envoy noted that “they actively participated not only in setting up the movement here, but bringing it to India”, which drew much applause from the audience.

“This was like a spark of fire that lit up an entire forest and created a network of freedom fighters across the globe”, she said.  “Today, the Indian diaspora, here in the United States, has grown to over three million.  But, one hundred years ago, it was only a handful of young men who, through the launch of the Gadar Movement, really brought home to a number of people in this country what India and Indians stood for”.

New Delhi’s top diplomat in Washington never tires of lauding the achievements of Indian-Americans and the event in Rockville was no exception!  She told the gathering: “Today, when I see the success of the Indian-American community here and the contributions Indian-Americans are making to the well-being and progress of the United States, and also bringing home to India so much of the knowledge and the expertise that they have gained in this country, I think they have succeeded in building a wonderful bridge of friendship and cooperation between the United States and India which is really what partnership is all about”.

Attorney General Gansler echoed similar sentiments, extolling the accomplishments of the Indian-American community which, he said, “contributes so much to our culture here”.  He noted how Indian-Americans possess an entrepreneurial spirit, are committed to education, and many serve as physicians – “such wonderful contributions while preserving the cultural wonders of India”, he said.

Gansler commended Ambassador Rao as “a woman of intelligence and elegance.  She always shows up”, he told the audience.  “She is a true ambassador”.

Students of the Nrityaki Dance Academy, which specializes in Kathak, performing ‘Jai Ho’ from the Oscar-winning film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, choreographed by Shweta Misra, founder and director of the Academy.  Photo credit: Bala Chandran, Asian Ocean Media

We would like to mention here that a highlight of the event were the cultural performances which effectively conveyed the mood and momentum of the commemoration.  Students of the Nrityaki Dance Academy, which specializes in Kathak, charmed the audience with ‘Jai Ho’ from the Oscar-winning film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, and Sneha Misra presented the Ganesh Vandana as an invocation piece.  Both dances were adeptly choreographed by Shweta Misra, founder and director of the Academy.  For the finale, members of Jawan Shoorveer Ankhiley, the talented Bhangra group from Delaware, regaled the audience with an energetic dance in their signature style.

The vocal renditions were also top-notch!  Prethi John and Niti Dharwadkar sang the US and Indian national anthems, respectively.

Marveling at the performances, Ike Leggett pointed out how “people come together to make certain that their heritage and culture is protected”.  The County Executive, who will be running for a third term, noted, “We are now a million people in Montgomery County.  This is one of the most diverse communities in all of America”, he said.

Indian Ambassador Mrs. Nirupama Rao (fifth from left) is seen with members of Jawan Shoorveer Ankhiley, the supremely gifted Bhangra group from Delaware, and organizers Mr. Inder Singh (left), Dr. Renuka Misra (third from right) and Mr. Walton Dawson (right).  Photo credit: Bala Chandran, Asian Ocean Media

Earlier, in a message to the organizers of the event, Leggett stated: “Americans of Asian Indian heritage have made innumerable cultural and economic contributions to our county and comprised an invaluable part of this community”.

Dr. Rajan Natarajan applauded the organizers, particularly Dr. Renuka Misra, Dr. Ram Singh and Dr. Sambhu Banik, for presenting such a significant event.  The Gadarites “left an extraordinary legacy”, he said.  “We are truly blessed, as Indian-Americans, to live here – a very diverse nation where we can celebrate our success and differences and also appreciate our unification”.

Delegate Aruna Miller, who has a knack for reaching out to everyone and is beloved for doing so, told the gathering, “Tonight is about remembering the vision of Mahatma Gandhi and courage of the freedom fighters and everyone who has ever laid down their lives so that all of our lives could be enriched and be guided by the principles of justice, freedom and equality.  These are the values that make ordinary people do extraordinary things.  Let us never forget the sacrifices made by those of our past and remember what we can do in the present to continue to fight for freedom, justice and equality for the future”, she said.

One is left wondering, how do you even begin to pay tribute to the Gadarites – these bravest of men?  The words of a patriotic song, immortalized by India’s foremost singer Lata Mangeshkar and rendered so beautifully at the GOPIO event by Niti Dharwadkar, come to mind and linger on:

‘Aye mere vatan ke logon (O’ people of my country)

Tum khoob laga lo naara (Raise all the slogans you like)….

Par mat bhoolo seema par (But, never forget that on the border)

Veeron ne hai praan ganvae (The brave have lost their lives)’.


Community Special by MYDOSTI.COM