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How British Imperial Immigration Policies Created The Ghadar Movement

1533 words - 6 pages

The Ghadar movement was an Indian Nationalist movement that grew out of a need to destroy the oppressive, Economic, Social, Legal and Racial limits thrust upon the Indian immigrants in the early 20th century North American West Coast. In the early 1900s, a few thousand South Asian pioneers, around 95% of them Punjabi Sikhs, voyaged mainly to British Columbia and California to seek economic opportunity. Over there they met with an inability to own land, were confined to all male labour gangs, denied justice and inaccurately categorized into an inferior and immutable ethnic group. These experiences led them to believe that the British Empire was pure exploitation and that Indians were a unified group that needed strong,independent representation. They aimed to dissemble British colonial oppression, and all means, including violence were used by these immigrants to achieve their means. This response, loose in organization but unified in spirit, was called Ghadar, literally meaning Rebellion in Punjabi. The ideology of Ghadar was later adopted by many leading activists in India, but the initial inspiration for one of India’s most prolific movements grew out of the suffering Indians faced by British Imperial immigration Policies.

The Ghadar party in many ways was a response to the Economic Hardships created towards the Sikhs by Oppressive British Immigration Policies. An example of Economic hardships thrust upon Indian immigrants was the Alien Land Law of California. The Alien Land Law essentially stated that no person of non-European decent could own land in the United States. Over 90% of the Indian immigrants that came to California in the early 1900s were Sikhs from the agricultural region of Punjab in Northwestern India. These Sikhs came to the West Coast of Canada and the United States in search of new pastures. Most arrived in British Columbia and were driven down to California due to both due to the greater ethnic hostility in Canada and also due to the climatic similarities between Canada and Punjab. Initially, they were exceptionally successful farmers and were known to arouse the envy of white farmers in the region. In order to appease the white voters as well as curb the influence of Japanese and Chinese farmers in the region, California passed the Alien Land Law in 1913. Automatically, farms that Sikhs owned carried no title and the farmers lost their entire wealth. In face of these hardships, the Japanese and Chinese turned to their respective embassies. The Chinese and Japanese embassies provided these citizens with supplies, education for their children as well as a strong voice and legal representation in American courts. However, for the Indians, the representative they had to turn to was the British embassy. The British embassy was in constant communication with both Lord Minto, the Vice-Roy of India and W.C Hopkinson, the immigration officer of Vancouver British Columbia. The British establishment in San Francisco, Vancouver and...

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