We stand together here today to mark the valour and sacrifice of the brave sons of India from the Gadar Party. Over 100 years ago, they raised the banner of revolt against the injustice and depredation handed out to India by the British Empire.
The economic downturn in India during the early twentiethcentury witnessed a high level of emigration. Some of these emigrants settled in North America. These included Punjabis as well as people from other parts of India.
Indian immigrants to Canada and the US faced political and social restrictions. This also fed the growing discontent among the predominantly Punjabi male population of immigrants.
The Gadar Party, initially the Pacific Coast Hindustan Association, was formed in 1913 in the United States. It was headquartered in San Francisco. Key members included Bhai Parmanand, Sohan Singh Bhakna, Bhagwan Singh Gyanee, Har Dayal, Taraknath Das, Kartar Singh Sarabha, Abdul Hafiz Mohamed Barakatullah, Sulaman Choudhary, Aamir Choudhary, Rashbehari Bose and Gulab Kaur. Though predominantly Sikh, the party included members and leaders of many religions, demonstrating a pluralistic and democratic attitude towards all Indians.Many of its members were students at UC Berkeley.
After the outbreak of World War I, Gadar Party members returned to Punjab to agitate for rebellion. In 1915 they conducted revolutionary activities in central Punjab and organised uprisings. Their presence challenged the hold of the British Empire; police surveillance in Punjabi villages increased in an attempt to crush the rebellion. The party is known for setting the foundation for future Indian revolutionary movements and served as a stepping stone for independence. Many of you know that we marked the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre recently. The prevailing situation in Punjab during and following the Great War was blotched with unjust laws and oppression.
The party was built around the weekly paper The Gadar, As Kartar Singh Sarabha, one of the founders of the party, wrote in the first issue: "Today there begins 'Gadar' in foreign lands, but in our country's tongue, a war against the British Raj. What is our name? Gadar. What is our work? Gadar. Where will be the Revolution? In India." Several Gadri Babas including Kartar Singh Sarabha were martyred at the hands of the British when they returned to India.
The voice of the Gadar Party and movement is one of sacrifice and justice. Gadri Babas dedicated their lives to the cause of India. To ensure that the voice does not fade from our memories, the Government of India has embarked on a restoration project. The project will restore this building's original facade from the early 1900s. Inside, we will have a museum and a community hall, as well as spaces for books and artefacts from the Gadar period. We will also dedicate space for research scholars of the future who can study the writings of these brave men.
I would also like to inform you about the series of events organised by the Embassy and our Consulates taking place across the United States in this 550th anniversary year of Guru Nanak Dev ji. We are organising Shabd Kirtans, cultural events and seminars focussed on the Guru's teachings, in partnership with our friends in the Sikh community and prominent Gurudwaras.
Some of you may also be aware of proposed border corridor between the neighbouring nations of India and Pakistan, connecting the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur. The Kartarpur corridor is a matter of great priority and pride for the Government of India and will facilitate easy access for Sikh pilgrims to the Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur. On 26 November 2018, the Hon'ble Vice President of India, Shri Venkaiah Naidu, laid the foundation stone of the Dera Baba Nanak-Kartarpur Sahib Corridor at Mann, a village in the Gurdaspur district of Punjab, India.
Lastly, I shall also highlight the recent decisions by the Government of India to facilitate consular services such as Visas, OCI Cards, attestations including power of attorney, life certificates, NRI certificates, police clearance certificates, etc for all applicants including asylees.
I'm delighted to be among all of you, representing various Indian communities, including the Sikh community. The Indian diaspora in the US is a force-multiplier in the strengthening of the India-US bilateral partnership. Your contributions to the US, as well as to the land of your ancestors, are sterling expressions of your enterprise, your dynamism and your commitment to the founding principles of both nations. On these hallowed grounds, let me wish you all the very best in the service of the communities that you inhabit.