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Unsung hero Kartar Singh Sarabha displayed at Chennai airport

Ministry of Civil Aviation

November 16, 2022

Heartiest congratulations on the occasion of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. In history, during this month, we remember Kartar Singh Sarabha on his death anniversary on 16th November.

Kartar Singh was born on 24 May 1896 in the village of Sarabha, located in Punjab. He was the only son born in a humble Sikh household and was raised by his grandfather after the early death of his father. The undivided Punjab that Kartar Singh Sarabha was born into was wrecked by severe droughts. In search of better opportunities, Punjabis began migrating to places like Canada and the USA. By the first decade of the 20th century, thousands of Punjabis had moved to these countries. In July 1912, Sarabha reached San Francisco with the intent of pursuing his education at the University of California, Berkley. Whether he was actually educated there remains unclear. However, his experiences in California changed the course of his future.

The hostility of the Americans towards immigrants in general, and immigrants from colonies in particular, was very apparent. At this time, Sarabha was working in California as a labourer like many other immigrants. It was there that he fully realised the humiliation of coming from a colonised land. Indians in America often came together to discuss their problems and share their sorrows. It was through such associations and exchanges that Sarabha began to get agitated about his colonisers (the Britishers) in India. In 1913, the Ghadar Party was formed in Oregon. It was an organisation of Indians that wanted to restore the dignity of their people by overthrowing the British regime in India through an armed uprising. The headquarters of the organisation was in San Francisco. Sarabha began to take an active part in it. He took the initiative of putting together the Punjabi issue of the Ghadar newspaper, published to spread awareness amongst the Indians there.

In July 1914, when the First World War subsumed Europe, the Ghadarites saw it as an opportunity to attack the British. They now planned to move their base to India to organise the people there. Kartar Singh was one of the Ghadarites who returned to India by the end of 1914. Many of them were arrested by the British authorities upon their arrival. Undaunted by the setback, Kartar Singh, and others like Rash Behari Bose carried on the task of organising soldiers against the British by filtering the cantonments in Punjab. However, before the Ghadarites could stage an uprising, the British clamped down on the activists and arrested them. This resulted in the Lahore Conspiracy Case, wherein a series of trials were held in Lahore against those involved in the stalled uprising. Kartar Singh Sarabha was unapologetic in the court and proudly enunciated his duty of mobilising the people against the British. His unfaltering patriotism made the judges severely antagonistic. Sarabha, along with his compatriot Vishnu Ganesh Pingle, was executed in the Lahore Central Jail on 16 November 1915.

Kartar Singh Sarabha was only nineteen years old when he was hanged by the British authorities. His bravery, activism, and commitment to the cause of the freedom of the Indians were heroic. He became a source of inspiration and courage for the freedom fighters that came later. This is especially true for Bhagat Singh, who saw an idol in the unflinching Kartar Singh Sarabha.

 He was arrested and tried in the ‘Lahore Conspiracy Case’ in April 1915 for his role in the revolt plot. Sarabha and his associates were later executed at the Lahore Central Jail in 1915. He was an inspiration for Bhagat Singh.

With due respect, we remember his valuable contribution in Indian freedom movement.

Jai Hind!