Ghadar, Historical Silences, and Notions of Belonging: Early 1900s Punjabis of the Columbia River

By Ogden, Johanna | Oregon Historical Quarterly, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

Ghadar, Historical Silences, and Notions of Belonging: Early 1900s Punjabis of the Columbia River


Ogden, Johanna, Oregon Historical Quarterly


ON May 30, 1913, the Astoria Budget printed a notice from "Munsii [Munshi] Ram, Secretary of the Hindu Association, Astoria, Oregon." It was an invitation to hear Har Dyal, a Stanford professor and "noted philosopher and revolutionist in India," deliver a special "lecture on India for the American residents of Astoria" at the local Finnish Socialist Hall.(1) That a Hindu Association and a Finnish Socialist Hall existed in remote, 1913 Astoria is its own startling news for many. But this was far more than a lecture in a "red" hall arranged by a surprising organization. Dyal's 1913 speech in Astoria was the keynote at the founding of the revolutionary nationalist Ghadar Party, an uncompromising and radical new direction in Indian nationalist politics.

Created by the Asian Indians (or Hindus, as they were referred to at the time) of the U.S. West Coast, Ghadar's aim was nothing less than the armed overthrow of British rule in India. (2) The group included intellectuals such as Dyal as well as students, but its ranks were the laboring Punjabi men who worked the region's mills and farms. Men from the length of the Columbia River and beyond filled the hall that May in Astoria. Within a year of the meeting, hundreds of Punjabis, overwhelmingly laborers from the West Coast led by Sohan Singh Bhakna from Portland, returned to India with the hope of sparking an insurrection against British rule. Most were promptly captured, detained, tried, or executed; Ghadarites were the target of conspiracy trials in Lahore, India, and San Francisco, California, the latter at the time the most costly trial in U.S. history. (3) These setbacks aside, Ghadar's secular politics united an unprecedented combination of social castes and religious backgrounds and made an indelible mark on the Indian imagination and politics. For that, Indian historiography views Ghadar as an opening salvo in the Indian nationalist endeavor. Ghadar Party memorials exist in Jalandhar, Punjab (India), and San Francisco, California. (4) Yet, this major political accomplishment and link to Indian independence is largely unknown today in the American West, and its birthplace in Oregon stands in mute anonymity.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Men from British Columbia to California accomplished the formation of Ghadar despite facing numerous legal proscriptions and extra-legal mob violence, frequently perpetrated with government backing or an official blind eye. Oregon was perhaps more nuanced in its treatment of the migrants because prominent figures in the state--for their own self-serving reasons--openly championed the economic usefulness of the Punjabi men's presence and stridently opposed violence against them. But while they were not physically driven from the state, the Punjabis have been run out of Oregon historically. There are no identifiable vestiges of them in Oregon's landscape, little recognition of their lives or accomplishments exist in our collective memory, and the watershed founding of Ghadar is largely forgotten. If remembered at all, Ghadar's Oregon story is eclipsed by that of San Francisco, the later home of its office and press. (5)

The story of Ghadar in the Pacific Northwest is, without a doubt, intriguing. For me, its historical importance lies in the realities it reveals about the transnational making of the region and the historical downplaying, if not silencing, of that very process. The erasure of Asian Indians in Oregon is rooted in myths that have privileged settlement over transience and rigid nationalist fables over stories of global peoples--whether Chinese, Japanese, or Hindustani--who were, and are, intrinsic to the region. Those myths have shaped our archives and stories, and they continue to haunt us through their impact on the notions of belonging and otherness in post-9/11 America. Re-rerembering the Punjabis of Oregon--communities of laborers and political activists stretching the length of the Columbia River--prompts one to consider the process of their erasure. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Ghadar, Historical Silences, and Notions of Belonging: Early 1900s Punjabis of the Columbia River
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.