Kartar Singh Sarabha

Kartar Singh Sarabha

Kartar Singh Sarabha, while a student of UC Berkeley
Born 24 May 1896
Sarabha Village, Ludhiana, Punjab
Died 16 November 1915 (aged 19)
Lahore, British India
Organization Ghadar Party
Movement Indian Independence movement,
Religion Sikh

Kartar Singh Sarabha (Urdu: کرتار سنگھ سرابھا) (24 May 1896 – 16 November 1915) was an Indian Sikh revolutionary who was amongst the most famous accused in the Lahore conspiracy trial. A leading luminary of the Ghadar Party, Kartar Singh was executed at Lahore in November 1915 for his role in the Ghadar Conspiracy in February 1915.

Early life

Kartar Singh Sarabha was born on 24 May 1896 in Ludhiana, Punjab India into a Jat Sikh family in the village of Sarabha in the district of Ludhiana, Punjab. His father was Sardar Mangal Singh Grewal and his mother was Sahib Kaur. He was still very young when his father died. His grandfather brought him up with great care. After receiving initial education in his own village, Kartar Singh entered the Malwa Khalsa high school in Ludhiana for his matriculation. He was in tenth class when he went to live with his uncle in Orissa where, after finishing high school, he went to college.

When he was fifteen, his family sent him by boat, to the USA to study at University of California Berkeley . The boat landed at the American port of San Francisco in January 1912. The American Immigration officer put Indians through rigorous questioning while people of other countries were allowed to pass after slight checks. Kartar Singh asked one of the passengers about this type of behaviour. He told him, "Indians are the citizens of a slave country. As such, they are treated badly." This incident had a great effect on Sarabha.

In 1914, Indians worked in foreign countries either as indentured labourers or soldiers fighting for the consolidation of British rule or extending the boundaries of the British Empire. Kartar enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley (UCB), for a degree in chemistry. and also took up the work of picking fruit in orchards. He frequently spoke with other Indians about freeing India from British rule.

The Ghadar Party and Newspaper

Main article: Ghadar Party

On 21 April 1913, the Indians of California assembled and formed the Ghadar Party (Revolution Party). The aim of the Ghadar Party was to get rid of the slavery of the British by means of an armed struggle and set up a national democratic government. Their slogan was "Put at stake everything for the freedom of the country." On 1 November 1913, the Ghadar Party started printing a paper named Ghadar, which was published in the Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati and Pushto languages. Kartar Singh did all the work for that paper.

This paper was sent to Indians living in all countries throughout the world. The purpose of the paper was to unmask the truth about British rule to Indians, impart military training, and explain in details the methods of making and using weapons and explosives.

Within a short time, the Ghadar Party became very famous through its organ: The Ghadar. It drew Indians from all walks of life.

Revolt in the Punjab

With the start of World War I in 1914, the British became thoroughly engrossed in the war effort. Thinking it to be a good opportunity, the leaders of the Ghadar Party published the "Decision of Declaration of War" against the British in issue of 'The Ghadar' dated 5 August 1914. Thousands of copies of the paper were distributed among army cantonments, villages and cities. Kartar Singh reached Calcutta via Colombo on board SS Salamin in November 1914: he accompanied two other Gadhar leaders, Satyen Sen and Vishnu Ganesh Pingle, along with a large number of Gadhar freedom fighters. With a letter of introduction from Jatin Mukherjee, the Jugantar leader, Kartar Singh and Pingle met Rash Behari Bose at Benares to inform him that twenty thousand more Gadhar members were expected very soon.[1] A large number of leaders of the Ghadar Party were arrested by the Government at the ports. In spite of these arrests, a meeting was held by members of the Ghadar Party at Ladhouwal near Ludhiana in which it was decided to commit robberies in the houses of the rich to meet requirements of finance for armed action. Two Ghadris, Waryam Singh and Bhai Ram Rakha were killed in a bomb blast in one such raid.

After the arrival of Rash Behari Bose at Amritsar on 25 January 1915, it was decided on a meeting on 12 February that the uprising should be started on 21 February. It was planned that after capturing the cantonments of Mian Mir and Ferozepur, mutiny was to be engineered near Ambala and Delhi.


Kirpal Singh, a police informer in the ranks of the Ghadar Party had a large number of members arrested on 19 February and informed the Government of the planned revolt. The Government disarmed the native soldiers due to which the revolt failed.

After the failure of the revolution, the members who had escaped arrest decided to leave India. Kartar Singh, Harnam Singh Tundilat, Jagat Singh etc. were asked to go to Afghanistan and they did make a move towards that area. But Kartar's conscience did not permit him to run away when all his comrades had been held. On 2 March 1915, He came back with two friends and went over to Chak No. 5 in Sargodha where there was a military stud and started propagating rebellion amongst the armymen. Risaldar Ganda Singh had Kartar Singh, Harnam Singh Tundilat, and Jagit Singh arrested from Chak No. 5, district Lyallpur.

Verdict and execution

He soon became the symbol of martyrdom and many were influenced from his bravery and sacrifice. Bhagat Singh, another great revolutionary of Indian freedom, regarded Kartar Singh as his guru, friend and brother. A statue of him was erected in Ludhiana, and Punjabi novelist Nanak Singh wrote a novel called Ikk Mian Do Talwaran based on his life. The judges during his trial were impressed by his intellectual skills, but nevertheless he was sentenced to death by hanging. He wrote a popular song which he would sing and it is said that he died singing it:

"ਸੇਵਾ ਦੇਸ਼ ਦੀ ਜਿੰਦੜੀਅੇ ਬੜੀ ਔਖੀ,
ਗੱਲਾਂ ਕਰਨੀਆਂ ਢੇਰ ਸੁਖੱਲੀਆਂ ਨੇ,
ਜਿੰਨੇ ਦੇਸ਼ ਦੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਚ ਪੈਰ ਪਾਇਆ,
ਓਹਨਾ ਲੱਖ ਮੁਸੀਬਤਾਂ ਝੱਲੀਆਂ ਨੇ."
Serving ones country is very difficult
It is so easy to talk
Anyone who walked on that path
Must endure millions of calamities.

The judgement in respect of 63 arrested Gadharites was pronounced on 13 September 1915, at the Central Jail, Lahore. In this first conspiracy case of 1914–15, 24 Gadarites were sentenced to death. Kartar Singh was one of them.

The court observed that Kartar Singh was the most dangerous of all the rebels. "He is very proud of the crimes committed by him. He does not deserve mercy and should be sentenced to death". Kartar Singh was hanged in the Central Jail of Lahore on 16 November 1915, aged 19.


Bhagat Singh was inspired by him.

See also


  1. Militant Nationalism in India, Bimanbehari Majumdar (p. 167); Sadhak biplabi jatindranath, Prithwindra Mukherjee pp. 283-284.
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