A cenotaph in honor of revolutionaries: The Tribune India

The Ghadar Party Martyrs Memorial, known as Desh Bhagat Yaadgar, is located on the old GT Road, near BMC Chowk, in Jalandhar. The memorial consists of a two-story building comprising a large exhibition hall, a conference and reading room, a library and some residential rooms as well as the later addition of a community hall and gardens. This commemorative building is managed by the Desh Bhagat Yaadgar committee. Its sole objective is to preserve the legacy of the Ghadar party over time. It highlights the revolutionary spirit and the struggle of the Ghadar party for the oppressed, for economic justice and self-determination. Its facilities are open for social gatherings, seminars, protest marches and popular causes for social change.

About the gallery

The memorial has a very large exhibition hall (90 feet by 60 feet) with 212 portraits of heroes of Ghadar presented by theme. Portraits, busts, relics and memorials of Indian patriots and revolutionaries, who played a leading role in the struggle for freedom, are on display in this gallery also called “Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna Museum”. It contains the portraits of legends, including Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna, Sham Singh Attariwala, Lala Lajpat Rai, Laxmi Bai, Mangal Pandey, Lala Har Dyal, Madan Lal Dhingra, Kartar Singh Sarabha, Udham Singh, Banta S Sanghwal, Diwan Mool Raj, Jawala Prashad and Begum Hazrat Mahal.

Ghadar Headquarters based in the United States

The Ghadar movement organized by Punjabi immigrant workers in California with its headquarters at 5 Wood Street, San Francisco. The movement was officially launched in 1913 with a weekly, Gadar. The genesis of the movement came from the fact that most Punjabis faced tough immigration laws, restrictive and discriminatory policies and social exclusion from the white community and they felt humiliated. Thus, Lala Har Dayal came to the fore to organize a rebellion in the form of the Ghadar Party dedicated to the liberation of India from imperial rule. On the old San Francisco site, a new building now stands that preserves the legacy.

Gallows of the Martyrs in Lahore

The site where Shadman Chowk now stands in Lahore was where the gallows of the martyrs stood (as in this old photo on display in the lobby). Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were executed at this crossroads on March 23, 1931. Shadman Chowk is at the center of Shadman settlement. The settlement was built after Pakistani authorities demolished the historic Lahore Prison in 1961, where many freedom fighters, including Kartar Singh Sarabha and many of his Ghadar party comrades, were executed in 1915.

The flag of the Ghadar party flies high

The Gadhar party flag has three horizontal rows of red, yellow, and green with a pair of white swords crossed over it. The flag remains hoisted on its building. The flag is also hoisted on other commemorative sites linked to the Ghadar movement, notably in the house of Kartar Singh Sarabha. The flag is hoisted in the middle of a flag song sung during Ghadari mela by the main guest each year.

The last Ghadarite

A book counter called “Baba Bhagat Singh Bilga Book House” is located right at the entrance of Desh Bhagat Yadgar Hall. The counter is named after Baba Bhagat Singh Bilga, the last Ghadarite to die and from the village of Bilga in Jalandhar. Baba Bilga was 101 when he died.

Copy of Heer by Udham Singh

A copy of the epic Heer written by the Sufi poet Waris Shah, which belonged to Shaheed Udham Singh and bears his signatures, on display at DBYH. The copy was in the possession of a UK based NRI, Sohan Singh Cheema, from the village of Cheema Khurd in Jalandhar, until the 1980s. His father Babu Karam Singh Cheema is said to have met Udham Singh in 1937 in the UK and gave him the copy before killing General Dyer. Udham Singh, who affectionately read the Heer, but was executed on July 31, 1940 in a North London prison for murder. The family gave the copy to the yaadgar committee. The copy has been on display at the museum since October 2009.

Busts of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Durga Bhabhi

Among the busts of freedom fighters on display is that of revolutionary Durgavati Devi, known as Durga Bhabhi. She helped Bhagat Singh and Rajguru escape by train after Saunder’s murder. She was the wife of Bhagwati Charan Vohra, a member of the Republican Socialist Association of Hindustan (HSRA). Other members of the association also called her Bhabhi and she became popular as Durga Bhabhi in Indian revolutionary circles.

Bust of Pt. Kishori Lal

The bust of Pt Kishori Lal, a freedom fighter from Punjab who worked with the Republican Socialist Association of Hindustan, has been placed in the center of the museum. He was born in 1912 in Dharampur village of Dasuya tehsil, Hoshiarpur. At the age of 16, he joined the Naujawan Bharat Sabha and came into contact with Bhagat Singh, founder of the sabha. He was involved in the bomb-making unit and was arrested in 1929 along with Sukhdev. After the Lahore conspiracy affair in 1929, he faced 18 years in prison. He died in a traffic accident in Jalandhar in 1990.

Jalandhar headquarters founded in 1959

After independence, as the majority of Ghadarites were Punjabis, they felt that the main memorial to the heroes of Ghadar should be in the Punjab. This site was chosen at Jalandhar and the construction of the memoir began with the purchase of prime land in 1955. Its foundation stone was laid on November 17, 1959 by a veteran of Ghadar, Amar Singh Sandhwan, after which construction work has started. A Ghadari Babeyan Da Mela featuring the struggle for freedom in the form of plays, seminars and book sales is now held here at the end of October each year.

Chest looted by Ghadarites

While the Ghadarites associated with Kartar Singh Sarabha were planning a revolt in the Punjab, a meeting of the Ghadar party was held in Ladowal near Ludhiana. It was decided at the meeting to commit thefts from the homes of the rich and the rich to deal with the lack of funds for armed action. The exposed chest was looted during one of these raids. In addition, two Ghadarites – Waryam Singh and Bhai Ram Rakha – died in a bomb explosion during the raid.

Portrait of Bibi Gulab Kaur

A portrait of Bibi Gulab Kaur, a Ghadarite, hangs in the gallery of the DBYH. She was born in 1890 in the Bakshiwala village of Sangrur. Gulab Kaur watched over the party printing press in the guise of a journalist. With a press card, she is known to have distributed weapons to members of the Ghadar party. Gulab Kaur has remained engaged in the distribution of literature on freedom, giving inspirational speeches and inspiring others to join the Ghadar party. She went to the Philippines after her marriage with the intention of moving to the United States. She returned to India with 50 other Ghadarites and remained active in the villages of Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur and Jalandhar to mobilize the masses. She was sentenced to two years in prison in Lahore for “seditious acts”.

Well-preserved Ajnala skeletons

The human skeletons of 282 soldiers executed by the British, unearthed in April 2014 in an abandoned well known as the “Kalian Wala Khu” (black well), Ajnala, have been kept in a glass box at the DBYH museum . The well was dug by the locals and the remains are soldiers from the First War of Independence, who rebelled against the East India Company in 1857. They were executed (most of them shot in head) and buried in the well on August 1, 1857. Hindu and Muslim soldiers rebelled against the British East India Company for fear that gun cartridges would be greased with animal fat banned by their religions .

Thelma J. Longworth

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