The Centennial of the Ghadar Movement was celebrated, with great enthusiasm, at its birthplace in Astoria. It was sponsored and coordinated by the City of Astoria, Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce, and the Clatsop County Historical Society.
Ghadar Movement, also called the Second War of India’s Independence, was initiated at Astoria, around the middle of 1913. At that time, Astoria, which is located in the NW corner of the U.S. state of Oregon, near the mouth of the mighty Columbia River, was a small lumber-mill and fish-cannery town.
Sikhs from British Columbia, Canada, and from California, Washington and Oregon, participated in the celebrations.
The celebration started in the evening on Oct. 4, with a welcome reception at Hampton Inn followed by screening of two films – ‘Turban’s, and ‘A Dream in Doubt’.
‘Turbans’ highlighted discriminatory experiences of children of the only Sikh family, in Astoria, in early 1900′s. Their difficulties led their father to go against the tenets of his faith, to make the unusually tough decision, to cut the hair of his two sons.
‘A Dream in Doubt’ related stories of victimization of some Sikhs in the U.S., after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Disgraceful acts, including murder, were committed by some ignorant White-Americans against some Sikhs. Because of their turbans and beards, the perpetrators had misidentified the victims, as followers of Osama bin Laden and his followers.
Celebrations on Oct. 5 started with a panel discussion, which drew the largest audience to the historic Liberty Theater, in downtown Astoria.
Johanna Ogden, an independent historian from Portland, led the discussion with a talk based on her research on Indians who had lived and worked in Oregon towns along the Columbia River, in early 1900′s.
Ali Kazimi, a professor at York University, Ontario, related his experiences while working on his film about the ‘Komagata Maru’. Loaded with 376 Indians seeking to enter Canada, Komagata Maru sailed to Vancouver, B.C., in 1914. After being held in international waters, for two months, the ship was forced to return, taking most of its passengers back to Hong Kong, from where it had sailed.
Walden University professor Dr. Paul Englesberg talked about his research in the riots against Indians and their expulsion from Bellingham, and Everett, Washington, in 1907.
Sohan Pooni, the Vancouver, B.C.-based author of the Punjabi book ‘Canada De Gadri Yodhay’ (Ghadar Warriors from Canada) highlighted the role of Punjabis from Canada and Astoria, in the Ghadar Movement.
Finally, Dr. Jasmit Singh described the evolution of the Sikh Coalition which was founded to advocate for the Sikhs, in the aftermath of the post 9/11 discrimination and violence against them.
Later, there was a gathering at the Maritime Memorial Park, where Astoria Mayor Van Dusen read out the city’s March 18, 2013 resolution, proclaiming 2013, as a celebration of the centenary of the founding of the Ghadar Movement, in Astoria.
Pashaura Singh Dhillon from Central California, recited his Punjabi poem. Imploring the Ghadri-babas (Ghadar Movement Participants) to look back and watch the ground at which their descendants stood “to salute your hilltop, where the call for freedom resonated around the world.”
Following this group of children from the audience, and other city officials assisted the Mayor in unveiling a plaque dedicated to the Ghadar Centennial celebration.
The final event of the celebration was screening of the film, ‘Continuous Journey’, made by professor Ali Kazimi. It recounts the events surrounding the Komagata Maru incident and includes some archival footage from 1914.
Dr. Rohila is a retired neuropsychologist from Keizer, OR. History has been his passion since his undergraduate years. For the last several years, he has been engaged in independent research, on India-origin people, working and living in Oregon between 1910 and 1930. He can be reached at email@example.com