Kartar Singh Sarabha (Punjabi: ਕਰਤਾਰ ਸਿੰਘ ਸਰਾਭਾ (Gurmukhi);کرتار سنگھ سرابھا (Shahmukhi); 24 May 1896 – 16 November 1915) was an Indian Sikh revolutionary who is among the most famous and reputed martyrs of Punjab. He was only 17 years old when he became a member of Ghadar Party, then came up as a leading luminary member and started fight for an independent India. He was one of the most active persons in the movement. Singh was executed at Lahore in November 1915 for his role in the movement in February 1915 when he was only 19 years old.
Kartar Singh Sarabha was born on 24 May 1896 in Ludhiana, Punjab India into a Grewal JatSikh family in village Sarabha, district Ludhiana, Punjab. His father was Mangal Singh and his mother was Sahib Kaur. When he was very young, his father died and his grandfather Badan Singh Grewal brought him up. After receiving his initial education in his village, Kartar Singh entered the Malwa Khalsa high school in Ludhiana; he studied until 8th standard. Then he went to his uncle (father's brother) in Orissa and stayed there for over a year, During this time he took lessons for standard 10 from a high school in Ravenshaw University, Cuttack, Orissa.
After coming back to his grandfather, his family decided to board him to the United States for higher studies. He sailed to San Francisco in July 1912. He was supposed to get enrolled in University of California, Berkeley but for some unknown reasons he did not take admission in any college. In a historical note by Baba Jwala Singh, what mentioned is that when i went to Astoria, Oregon in December 1912 i found Kartar Singh working in a mill factory. Most of the people will say that he studied in the respective college but the college itself did not get any record of enrollment with his name.
His association with Nalanda club of Indian students at Berkeley aroused his patriotic sentiments and he felt agitated about the treatment immigrants from India, especially manual, worker received in the United States.
A great man named Sohan Singh Bhakna founder of Ghadar Party almost double the age of Kartar Singh inspired him for independence of British Ruling India, from then he put all of his power in making this happen.Sohan Singh Bhakna called Kartar Singh as "Baba Gernal". He started learning how to shoot with a gun or pistol from local Americans, and he also learned how to make a bomb. One of the famous things about his learning is that he took lessons in flying an airplane.
In 1914, Indians worked in foreign countries either as indentured labourers or soldiers fighting for the consolidation of British rule or extending the boundaries of the British Empire. He frequently spoke with other Indians about freeing India from British rule.
Ghadar Party and newspaper
Main article: Ghadar Party
When the Ghadr party was founded in mid-1913 with Sohan Singh, a Sikh peasant from Bhakna village in Amritsar district, as president and Hardyal as secretary, Kartar Singh stopped his university work, moved in with Har Dyal and became his helpmate in running the revolutionary newspaper Ghadr (revolt). He undertook the responsibility for printing of the Gurmukhi edition of the paper. He composed patriotic poetry for it and wrote articles.
On 21 April 1913, the Sikhs of California assembled and formed the Ghadar Party (Revolution Party). The aim of the Ghadar Party was to get rid of the slavery of the British by means of an armed struggle. On 1 November 1913, the Ghadar Party started printing a paper named Ghadar, which was published in Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati and Pushto languages. Kartar Singh did all the work for that paper.
This paper was sent to Indians living in all countries throughout the world. The purpose of the paper was to unmask the truth about British rule to Indians, impart military training, and explain in details the methods of making and using weapons and explosives.
Within a short time, the Ghadar Party became very famous through its organ: The Ghadar. It drew Indians from all walks of life.
Revolt in the Punjab
Main article: Hindu–German Conspiracy
With the start of World War I in 1914, the British became thoroughly engrossed in the war effort. Thinking it to be a good opportunity, the leaders of the Ghadar Party published the "Decision of Declaration of War" against the British in issue of 'The Ghadar' dated 5 August 1914. Thousands of copies of the paper were distributed among army cantonments, villages and cities. Kartar Singh reached Calcutta via Colombo on board SS Salamin in November 1914: he accompanied two other Gadhar leaders, Satyen Sen and Vishnu Ganesh Pingle, along with a large number of Gadhar freedom fighters. With a letter of introduction from Jatin Mukherjee, the Jugantar leader, Kartar Singh and Pingle met Rash Behari Bose at Benares to inform him that twenty thousand more Gadhar members were expected very soon. A large number of leaders of the Ghadar Party were arrested by the Government at the ports. In spite of these arrests, a meeting was held by members of the Ghadar Party at Ladhouwal near Ludhiana in which it was decided to commit robberies in the houses of the rich to meet requirements of finance for armed action. Two Ghadris, Waryam Singh and Bhai Ram Rakha were killed in a bomb blast in one such raid.
After the arrival of Rash Behari Bose at Amritsar on 25 January 1915, it was decided on a meeting on 12 February that the uprising should be started on 21 February. It was planned that after capturing the cantonments of Mian Mir and Ferozepur, mutiny was to be engineered near Ambala and Delhi.
Kirpal Singh, a police informer in the ranks of the Ghadar Party, had a large number of members arrested on 19 February and informed the government of the planned revolt. The government disarmed the native soldiers due to which the revolt failed.
After the failure of the revolution, the members who had escaped arrest decided to leave India. Kartar Singh, Harnam Singh Tundilat, Jagat Singh etc. were asked to go to Afghanistan and they did make a move towards that area. But Kartar's conscience did not permit him to run away when all his comrades had been held. On 2 March 1915, He came back with two friends and went over to Chak No. 5 in Sargodha where there was a military stud and started propagating rebellion amongst the armymen. Risaldar Ganda Singh had Kartar Singh, Harnam Singh Tundilat, and Jagit Singh arrested from Chak No. 5, district Lyallpur.
Verdict and execution
Main article: Lahore Conspiracy Case trial
The trial of arrested leaders in the Lahore conspiracy cases of 1915-1916 highlighted the role of Kartar Singh Sarabha in the movement. His defense was just one eloquent statement of his revolutionary creed. He was sentenced to death on 13 September 1915. A statue of Kartar Singh, erected in the city of Ludhiana commemorates his legendary heroism.
He soon became the symbol of martyrdom and many were influenced from his bravery and sacrifice. Bhagat Singh, another great revolutionary of Indian freedom, regarded Kartar Singh as his guru, friend and brother. A statue of him was erected in Ludhiana, and Punjabi novelist Nanak Singh wrote a novel called Ikk Mian Do Talwaran based on his life. The judges during his trial were impressed by his intellectual skills, but nevertheless he was sentenced to death by hanging. He wrote a popular song which he would sing and it is said that he died singing it:
- "ਸੇਵਾ ਦੇਸ਼ ਦੀ ਜਿੰਦੜੀਅੇ ਬੜੀ ਔਖੀ,
Sewa desh di jindariye badi aukhi
- ਗੱਲਾਂ ਕਰਨੀਆਂ ਢੇਰ ਸੁਖੱਲੀਆਂ ਨੇ,
Gallan karniya dher sokhaliyan ne
- ਜਿੰਨੇ ਦੇਸ਼ ਦੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਚ ਪੈਰ ਪਾਇਆ
jihne desh di sewa 'ch per paeya
- ਓਹਨਾ ਲੱਖ ਮੁਸੀਬਤਾਂ ਝੱਲੀਆਂ ਨੇ."
Ohna lakh musibtaan jhalliyan ne
- Serving ones country is very difficult
- It is so easy to talk
- Anyone who walked on that path
- Must endure millions of calamities.
The court observed that Kartar Singh was the most dangerous of all the rebels. "He is very proud of the crimes committed by him. He does not deserve mercy and should be sentenced to death". Kartar Singh was hanged in the Central Jail of Lahore on 16 November 1915, aged 19.
Bhagat Singh was inspired by him.
- ^Militant Nationalism in India, Bimanbehari Majumdar (p. 167); Sadhak biplabi jatindranath, Prithwindra Mukherjee pp. 283-284.
Freedom Fighter Kartar Singh Sarabha
Source: Adapted from the works of Harbans Singh and Kharak Singh
Kartar Singh Sarabha, a Ghadr revolutionary, was born in 1886 in the village of Sarabha, in Ludhiana district of the Punjab in the house of Mangal Singh, a well-to-do farmer. After receiving his primary education in his own village, Kartar Singh entered the Malwa Khalsa High school at Ludhiana for his matriculation. He was in tenth grade when he went to live with his uncle in Orissa where, after finishing high school, he joined college.
In 1912, when he was barely 16 years old, he sailed for San Francisco (U.S.A), and joined the University of California at Berkeley, enrolling for a degree in chemistry. His association with Nalanda club of Indian students at Berkeley aroused his patriotic sentiments and he felt agitated about the treatment immigrants from India, especially laborers received in the United States.
When the Ghadr party was founded in mid-1913 with Sohan Singh, a Sikh peasent from Bhakna village in Amritsar district, as president and Hardyal as secretary, Kartar Singh stopped his university work, moved in with Har Dyal and became his helpmate in running the revolutionary newspaper Ghadr (revolt). He undertook the responsibility for printing of the Gurmukhi edition of the paper. He composed patriotic poetry for it and wrote articles. He also went out among the Sikh farmers and arranged meetings at which he and other Ghadr leaders made speeches urging them to united action against British.
At a meeting at Sacremento, California, on 31 October 1913, he jumped to the stage and began to sing: "Chalo chaliye desh nu yudh karen, eho akhiri vachan te farman ho gaye" (Come! let us go and join the battle of freedom; the final call has come, let us go!). Kartar Singh was one of the first to follow his own call.
As World was I broke out, members of Ghadr party were openly exhorted to return to India to make armed revolt against the British. Kartar Singh left the United States on 15 September 1914, nearly a month ahead of the main body of Sikhs who were to follow. He returned to India via Colombo, resolved to set up in his village a centre on the model of Ghadr party's Yugantar Ashram in San Francisco. When Bhai Parmanand arrived in India in December 1914 to lead the movement, Kartar Singh was charged with spreading the network in Ludhiana district.
In this connection, he went to Bengal to secure weapons and made contacts with revolutionaries such as Visnu Ganesh Pingley, Sachindra Nath Sanyal and Rash Bihari Bose. With Pingley, Kartar Singh visited cantonments at Meerut, Agra, Benaras, Allahabad, Ambala, Lahore and Rawalpindi, with a view to incite soldiers to revolt. As far as armaments, Kartar Singh and his associates succeeded in manufacturing bombs on a small scale at Jhabeval and later at Lohtbaddi, both in Ludhiana district. Kartar Singh organized and participated in raids on the villages of Sahneval and Mansuran in January 1915, in order to procure funds for the party.
At this time, a meeting took place in the Central Jail Lahore on the 4th October, 1930 between the two great stars of the struggle for independence. It was held during the period, when the government thwarted a meeting of two such top-ranking revolutionaries, one of whom had just completed a life term after conviction as the hero of the famous Second Lahore Conspiracy Case, and the other just condemned to death by hanging for murder of Saunders, the British officer responsible for the lathi charge on the group led by Lala Lajpat Rai, resulting in his death.
As hinted above, one of the parties to the meeting was Shahid Bhagat Singh who was hanged at Lahore. The other party to the meeting was Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh, who along with another great freedom fighter and martyr, Sardar Kartar Singh Sarabha, had organised an army revolt at Ferozepur cantonement in 1915.
In February 1915, just before the planned revolt was to erupt, there was a massive roundup of the Ghadr leaders, following the disclosures made by a police informer, Kirpal, who had surreptiously gained admittance into the party. Kartar Singh, Jagat Singh of Sursingh, and Harnam Singh Tundilat escaped to Kabul. All three however, came back to Punjab to continue their work. They were seized on 2nd of March, 1915 at Wilsonpur, in Shahpur district, where they had gone to incite the troops of the 22nd Cavalry.
The plan unfortunately failed due to infiltration of some traitors, who later turned approvers. The result was that seventeen brave sons of Punjab were hanged, besides scores sentenced for life or various terms of imprisonment according to British `justice'. Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh was sentenced to life imprisonment and his property confiscated in March 1916 as a leader of the Conspiracy.
The trial of arrested leaders in the Lahore conspiracy cases of 1915-1916 highlighted the role of Kartar Singh Sarabha in the movement. His defense was just one eloquent statement of his revolutionary creed. He was sentenced to death on 13th of September, 1915 and received the hangman's noose on 16the of November, 1915. Kartar Singh has also been immortalized in the fictional account 'Ik Mian Do Talwaran' by the famous Punjabi novelist, Nanak Singh.