KARTAR SINGH SARABHA (1896-1915), Ghadr revolutionary, was born in 1896 in the village of Sarabha, in Ludhiana disirict of the Punjab, the only son of Marigal Sirigli, a well to do farmer. After receiving his primary education in his own village, Kartar Sirigli entered the Malva Khalsa High School ai Ludhiana for his matriculation. He was in his tenth class when he went to live with his uncle in Orissa where, after finishing liigli school, he joined college. In 1912, when he was barely 16 years old he sailed for San Fransisco, California (U.S.A.), and joined the University of California at Berkeley, enrolling for a degree in chemistry.

His association with the Nalanda Club of Indian Students at Berkeley aroused his patriotic sentiment and he felt agitated about the treatment immigrants from India, especially manual workers, received in the United States. When the Ghadr Party was founded in mid 1913 with Sohan Singh, a Sikh peasant from Bhakna in Amritsar district, as president and Har Dayal as secretary, Kartar Singh stopped his university work, moved in with Har Dayal and became his helpmate in running the revolutionary newspaper Ghadr (Revolt). He undertook the responsibility for the printing of the Gurmukhi edition of the paper. He composed patriotic poetry for it and wrote articles.

He also went out among the Sikh farmers and arranged meetings at which he and other Ghadr leaders made speeches urging them to united action against the British. At a meeting at Sacramento, California, on 31 October 1913, he jumped to the stage and began to sing: “Chalo chaHye desk nil yuddha karan, eho dkhin vachan te farmdn ho gay e” (Come! let us go and join the battle of freedom; the final call has come, let us go!” Kartar Singh was one of the first to follow his own call. As World War I broke out, members of the Ghadr Party were openly exhorted to return to India to make armed revolt against the British. Kartar Singh left the United States on 15 September 1914, nearly a month ahead of the main body of Sikhs who were to follow.

He returned to India, via Colombo, resolved to set up in his village a centre on the model of the Ghadr Party`s Yugantar Ashram in San Francisco. When Bhai Parmanand arrived in India in December 1914 to lead the movement, Kartar Singh was charged with spreading the network in Ludhiana district. In this connection he went to Bengal to secure firearms, and made contacts with revolutionaries such as Visnu Ganesh Pirigley, Sachindra Nath Sanyal and Rash Behari Bose. With Pirigley, Kartar Singh visited the cantonments at Meerut, Agra, Banaras, Allahabad, Ambala, Lahore and Rawalpindi with a view to inciting the soldiers to revolt. As for armaments, Kartar Singh and his associates succeeded in manufacturing bombs on a small scale at Jhabeval and later at Lohatbaddi, both in Ludhiana district.

Kartar Singh organized and participated in raids on the villages of Sahneval and Mansurari in January 1915, in order to procure funds for the party. In February 1915, just before the planned revolt was to erupt, there was a massive roundup of the Ghadr leaders, following the disclosures made by a police informer, Kirpal Singh, who had surreptitiously gained admittance into the Party. Kartar Singh,Jagat Singh of Sursirigh and Harnam Singh Tundilat escaped to Kabul. All three however came back to continue their campaign in the Punjab and were seized on 2 March 1915 at Wilsonpur, in Shahpur district, where they had gone to seduce the troops of the 22nd Cavalry.

The trial of arrested leaders in the Lahore conspiracy cases of 1915-16 highlighted the central role of Kartar Singh Sarabha in the movement. His defence was just one more eloquent statement of his revolutionary creed. He was sentenced to death on 13 September 1915 and he received the hangman`s noose on 16 November 1915 singing his favourite patriotic song. A statue of Kartar Singh, erected in the city of Ludhiana commemorates his legendary heroism. He has also been immortalized in a fictional account Ikk Midn Do Talvdrdn by the famous Punjabi novelist, Nanak Singh.

References :

1. Jagjit Singh, Ghadnr Parfi Lahir. Delhi, 1979
2. Man Singh, Azndi di Shamlui fit` Sikh parvanem Delhi, 1973
3. Nahar Singh, Giam, Azadi dian Lahiran, Ludhiana, 1960
4. Sain.sara, G.S., Ghadar Parti da Itihas Jalandhar, n.d.
5. Fauja Singh, ed., Who`s Who: Punjab Freedom Fighter`s, vol. I. Patiala, 1972
6. Mathur, J.P., Indian Revolutionary Movement in the United States of America. Delhi, 1970
7. Grewal,J.S., “Kartar Singh Sarabha” in Dictionary of National Biography, vol. IV. Calcutta, 1974