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Shaheed Kartar Singh Sarabha

Sardar Kartar Singh Sarabha (May24, 1896 - November 16, 1915) was an Indian freedom fighter who was executed in his teenage years. He went to the United States for higher studies and enrolled in the University of California at Berkeley campus in 1912 for a degree in Science. He became the member of the Nalanda Club Association of Indian students of Berkeley. He also became a member of the Ghadar Party in 1913 and started fighting for the independence movement and came to India in 1914 to struggle for freedom.

Sardar Kartar Singh Sarabha was born into a Grewal Jat Sikh family in the Sarabha village near Ludhiana, Punjab. His father was Mangal Singh and mother was Sahib Kaur. Kartar Singh was very young when his father died and his grandfather and her mother brought up him. He received primary education at his village and got secondary education at the Malvasia High School Ludhiana. Then he went went to his uncle in Odisha and completely his Matriculation Examination in 1911 and came back to his village. In July 1912, he went to United State and get enrolled in the University of California at Berkeley campus. He became a member of the Nalanda Club Association of Indian students of Berkeley.

The Ghadar Party was founded in mid 1913 with Sohan Singh Bhakna as president and Lala Hardyal as secretary. On July 15,1913, the Punjabi Indians of California assembled and formed the Ghadar Party. The aim of the Ghadar Party was to get rid of British rule in India by means of an armed struggle. On November 1, 1913, the Ghadar Party started printing a paper named Ghadar, which was published in Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, and Pashto languages. Sarabha stopped his university work, moved with Lala Hardyal and became his helpmate in running the revolutionary newspaper Ghadar (revolt). He undertook the responsibility for writing and printing the Punjabi edition of the paper. He composed patriotic poetry for it and wrote articles. Sohan Singh Bhakna, the founder of the Ghadar Party, inspired Sarabha to campaign against British colonial rule for the sake of getting independence. Sarabha learnt from the Americans how to shoot a gun, and how to make detonating devices. He also took lessons for flying an aeroplane. He frequently spoke with other Indians and convinced them regarding the need of independence of India. This Ghadar paper was sent to Indians living in all countries throughout the world. Its purpose was to convince both Indians and the Indian diaspora to support the freedom movement. Within a short time, the Ghadar Party became famous through the circulation of the Ghadar Paper. Although, overwhelming majority of the Ghararies were Sikhs and centres of activities were the Sikh Temples in Canada, America, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore. There were some leaders of other parties from different parts of India like Lala Hardyal, Rash Behari Bose, Barkatulla, Seth Husain Rahim, Tark Nath Das, and Vishnu Pandey.

The First World War started on July 28, 1914, and the British get engaged in war in different parts of the world. Thinking of it as a good opportunity, Sohan Singh Bhakna and other leaders of the Ghadar Party decided and published the “Decision of Declaration of War against the British" in issue of the Ghadar paper dated August 5,1914. Thousands of copies of the Ghadar paper were distributed among army cantonments, villages, and cities. Sarabha reached Calcutta via Colombia on board SS Salamin in October 1914. He accompanied two other leaders, Satyen Sen and Vishnu Ganesh Pingle, along with a large number of Ghadar freedom fighters. Sarabha and Pingle met Rash Behari Bose at Banaras to inform him that about twenty thousand more Ghadar Party members were expected very soon. Somehow the British got the information regarding the revolt by the Ghadar party and a large number of leaders of the Ghadar Party were arrested by the British Government at the port. In spite of these arrests, a meeting was held by the members of the Ghadar Party at Ladhowal near Ludhiana in which it was decided to commit robberies in the houses of the rich to meet the requirements of the finance for armed action. Two Ghadris, Waryam Singh and Bhai Ram Rakha were killed in a bomb blast in one such raid.

Rash Behari Bose, Sarabha and many other members of Ghadar Party held a meeting on February 12, 1915 at Amritsar and decided that an uprising should be started on February 21, 1914. It was planned that after capturing the cantonments of Mian Mir, Ferozpur, mutiny was to be engineered near Ambla and Delhi. Kirpal Singh, a police informer, informed the British Government of the planned revolt of the Ghadar Party. A large number of Ghadar Party members were arrested on February 19, 1914 and the Government disarmed the native soldiers so the revolt was not successful. After the failure of the Revolution, the Government arrested many members of the Ghadar Party. Those who had escaped arrest decided to leave India. Sarabha, Harnam Singh, Tundilat Jagjit Singh and others were asked to go to Afghanistan. On March 2, 1915 Sarabha with his two friends came back and went to Chock No. 5 in Sargodha where there was a military stud and again started propagating rebellion among the army men. Risaldar Ganda Singh, Sarabha, Harnam Singh and Jagjit Singh arrested from Chock No. 5 Lyallpur district.

All the accused in the conspiracy case, for India’s freedom were executed in the Central Jail in Lahore on November 17, 1915. Sarabha was not at all sorry for what he had done and executed, but he was sorry that the Revolution remained unsuccessful. He everted that every Indian had a right to revolt against the British, and it could never be a crime to rise in defence of the primary rights of the sons of every soil. When he was being tried on the charge of sedation, he took the entire blame upon himself. The judge was astonished to see such a young boy, a teenager, behaving in such a nonchalant manner. In view of his tender age, he advised the young revolutionary to modify his statement, but Sarabha did not agree.

Sardar Kartar Singh Sarabha soon became the symbol of martyrdom and many freedom fighters were influenced from his bravery and sacrifice. The court observed Kartar Singh as the most dangerous of all the rebels as he was very expert in making bombs, flying aeroplanes and convincing the people to revolt and achieve freedom. Sarabha was hanged in the Central Jai of Lahore on November 16, 1915. Sardar Bhagat Singh Shahedaism’s mother has said that he always carried a photograph of Sarabha in his pocket and very often he would show her that photograph and say dear mother this is my hero, friend, companion and he inspires me to carry on in the struggle to get freedom.

Kartar Sigh Sarabha always sang a song while working on the printing press to publish the articles of the Ghadar Party, as given below:

Seva desh de jinddhiye badhi aukhi, gallan karnia dher sukhalliyan ne, jinha desh sewa ch pair paya, ohna lakh museebtan jhalliyan ne.

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