The Power of Pen


By Inder Singh 
Higher education in American universities was a powerful magnet for young Indians even in those days.
The United States welcomed qualified Indian students seeking admissions in the American universities.
Some students were able to get sponsorship from their princely states while others came with financial
support from their families or got university scholarships. Many of these students went back to India
after finishing their education while some found jobs in the universities or elsewhere. However, several
students failed to get jobs matching their educational attainments. The Indian students attributed the
prejudice and discrimination to their being nationals of a subjugated country. Many articulated
nationalist feelings and started advocating freedom for India from the British serfdom. They formed
organizations to collectively assert their right for independence for India.

Independence for India
Taraknath Das, a student, started publishing a magazine Free Hindustan in 1907 in Seattle, advocating
armed rebellion against the British rule in India. Har Dyal had been a faculty member at Stanford
University for about two years and was identified with the nationalist activities in the United States. He
inspired many students studying at the University of California at Berkeley and channelized the pro-
Indian, anti-British sentiment of the students for independence of India. At a meeting of some patriotic
and enlightened Indians on April 23, 1913, in Astoria, Oregon, Har Dyal and others passionately spoke
for throwing the British out of India and securing liberation by all means at their disposal. The Hindustan
Association of the Pacific Coast was formed at this meeting with a major objective to liberate India from
the British colonial rule. Many people became its members enthusiastically and supported it financially.
Thus, this was the first attempt to mobilize the Indian nationals in the United States to join on a
participatory basis to achieve a common goal – free India from the British serfdom.

The association began publishing the magazine Gadar, to promote the aims, objectives and activities of
the organization. Gadar, literally means revolt or mutiny and the publication aimed at exposing the
British imperialism. It also called upon the Indian people to unite and rise up against the British rule and
throw them out of India. The publication Gadar, over a period of time, became well known among
Indians and the Hindustan Association of the Pacific Coast itself became known as the Gadar party. The
movement continued for a few years but did not achieve its intended objective of freeing India.
Nevertheless, Gadar leaders mobilized the then world Indian community and left a major impact on
India’s struggle for freedom.

The desire to liberate India was still a burning issue with many Indians. However the means to obtain
freedom were changed from the use of arms which the Gadarites had adopted to the power of pen of
the new leadership. Lala Lajpat Rai, one of the prominent movement leaders in India, who later became
known as “the Lion of Punjab”, came to the US in 1914 to elicit American support for the Freedom
movement. He founded the Indian Home Rule League in 1917 in New York and in 1918, started
publishing Young India as his organization’s magazine to reach out to individuals, groups and organizations. He started publishing articles in the American media, cultivated contacts with
intellectuals and gained the support of wide audience of Americans sympathetic towards the cause of
India’s freedom.

-To be continued

Inder Singh regularly writes and speaks on Indian Diaspora. He is Chairman of Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO). He was president of GOPIO from 2004-2009, president of National Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA) from 1988-92 and was the founding president of Federation of Indian Associations in Southern California. He can be reached at

October 2011

click here to enlarge

 >> Cover Story
 >> From the Editor