Kartar Singh Sarabha was an Indian revolutionary who belonged to the Jat Sikh Punjabi family of Amritsar in Punjab. At the age of nineteen, Kartar Singh Sarabha actively joined the Ghadar party which was formed by Lala Har Dayal, Sohan Singh Bhakna, Baba Jawala Singh, Santokh Singh, and Sant Baba Wasakha Singh Dadehar in 1913 to overthrow British rule in India. He was considered the most active member of the party soon after his joining the party’s freedom movement.
Kartar Singh Sarabha was born on Sunday, 24 May 1896 (age 19 years; at the time of death) in Village Sarabha, Punjab Province, British India (present-day Punjab, India). His zodiac sign was Gemini. He completed his middle standard studies at Malwa Khalsa high school in Ludhiana, Punjab, and did matriculation at Ravenshaw College in Cuttack, Odisha.
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
His father’s name was Mangal Singh, and his mother’s name was Sahib Kaur. Kartar Singh Sarabha was the only son of his parents.
Kartar Singh Sarabha belonged to a Jat Sikh family of Punjab.
Kartar Singh Sarabha was born and brought up in a Jat Sikh family of Punjab. His father died when he was very young. He was raised by his grandfather. Soon after finishing his eighth standard at Ludhiana, Punjab, he moved to Odisha at his uncle’s home, and there continued his studies till matriculation. Kartar Singh Sarabha came back to his hometown in Punjab after a year and started living with his grandfather. After completing his school studies, it was decided by his family members to send him abroad for higher education.
Kartar Singh Sarabha moved to San Francisco in July 1912 by ship. Kartar Singh Sarabha had to get admission to the University of Berkeley soon after his arrival, but there is no information available in the official records about his admission to the university. It was remarked by a prominent Indian freedom fighter named Baba Jwala Singh in one of his articles that once he met Kartar Singh in a mill factory at Astoria in Oregon in December 1912 where Kartar Singh was working. Apparently, there were no records found in the University of Berkeley about his enrollment in the college as claimed by various authors, scholars and references.
The Nalanda club of Indian Students
Kartar Singh Sarabha joined the Nalanda club soon after his arrival in America, a revolutionary club formed by the Indian students at Berkeley. There, Kartar Singh Sarabha experienced the ill-treatment done by the Britishers to the manual workers and labourers from India that ultimately flourished the patriotic sentiments in him
Joining the Ghadar Party
Lala Har Dayal, Sohan Singh Bhakna, Baba Jawala Singh, Santokh Singh, and Sant Baba Wasakha Singh Dadehar established a revolutionary movement and party named the Ghadar Party on 15 July 1913 in America to overthrow British rule in India. This party aimed to organise the Indians residing in America and Canada and to encourage them against the colonial rule in India. Sohan Singh Bhakna was a Sikh co-founder of the party who inspired several Sikhs living in America. Kartar Singh Sarabha joined the party as its active member, and Sohan Singh Bhakna was known for his revolt against the British. Sohan Singh Bhakna was the one who named Kartar Singh Sarabha as ‘Baba Gernal,’ and he also motivated his mind against the colonial rule. The manufacturing of detonating devices and shooting the guns was learnt by Kartar Singh from the native Americans. Soon, he learnt to fly an aeroplane. He actively participated in the independence movements organised by the Ghadar Party to spread the revolt against British rule in India. In America, Kartar Singh Sarabha observed that a large portion of Indians was labouring and working as soldiers in the British Army to extend its empire in the whole world.
The Ghadar Newspaper
The main focus of the Ghadar Party was to rebel against the Britishers through an arms struggle that was why the Ghadar Party was formed by the Punjabi Indians in California. After four months of the establishment of the party, its newspaper edition titled ‘The Ghadar’ was released on 1 November 1913 which was published in different languages including Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, and Pushto. Kartar Singh Sarabha quit his University work at Berkeley and joined the Ghadar Party’s newspaper printing and publishing tasks along with the party co-founder Sohan Singh (a Sikh from the Bhakna village in Amritsar district) and the secretary of the Ghadar Party Lala Har Dayal. Kartar Singh Sarabha assisted in printing the editions of the Ghadar newspaper in the Gurmukhi language. He was given the task to administer and operate the newspaper editions. Soon, he started writing articles and patriotic poems for the newspaper. Reportedly, the articles published in the Ghadar newspaper were so patriotic that they encouraged several Indians living in America and Canada to join the revolutionary movement of the Ghadar Party to rebel against the British.
A revolutionary article titled “Decision of Declaration of War” was published by the leaders of the Ghadar Party on 5 August 1914 at the beginning of World War I when the Britishers were busy in war efforts. A thousand copies of this revolutionary article was disseminated across the army cantonments, villages, and towns with a message to provoke the Indians against the Britishers. After two months, in October 1914, a large number of party members including Kartar Singh Sarabha moved through ships via Colombo to India. The leaders of the Ghadar party named Satyen Sen and Vishnu Ganesh also accompanied the group. In Benaras, Kartar Singh Sarabha met Rash Behari Bose, and the Jugantar leader Jatin Mukherjee confirmed their identification through an introduction letter. Rash Behari Bose was informed by Kartar Singh that the Ghadar Party members would be arriving soon in India, and their count was more than 20,000. The British police got wind of the arrival of the Indian revolutionaries, and at the seaports, they arrested a plentiful of freedom fighters. Soon, a meeting was organised at Ladhouwal near Ludhiana by the revolutionaries who escaped the police arrest including Kartar Singh Sarabha. To fund the arms and ammunition needs of the Ghadar Party, the robbing of rich houses of Punjab was decided in the meeting. The Britishers adopted bomb blast strategies on the robbery raids conducted by the Ghadar Party members, and in one such bomb blast, Waryam Singh and Bhai Ram Rakha were killed. These were the active members of the Ghadar Party.
The well known Indian revolutionary Rash Behari Bose arrived in Amritsar on 25 January 1915, and on 12 February 1915, he organised a meeting to initiate a movement against the colonial rule on 21 February 1915. Kartar Singh Sarabha was also present in the meeting. The focus of the meeting was to seize the cantonments of Mian Mir and Ferozepur in Punjab for arms and to set up their own rebellion in Ambala and Delhi.
On 19 February 1915, a number of members from the Ghadar Party were arrested by the British police on the information provided by a police informer named Kirpal Singh. Consequently, the revolt planning was failed and the arms from the members of the Ghadar Party were captured by the British police. In this police raid, some managed to escape the police arrest, and these members were asked to leave India. Kartar Singh, Harnam Singh Tundilat, Jagat Singh were told to leave for Afghanistan. On 2 March 1915, Kartar Singh and his two friends came back to India. Their conscience did not allow them to escape from the freedom struggle. Kartar Singh Sarabha went to Chak No. 5 in Sargodha soon after he came back to India. There, he started raising slogans and propagating against British rule in India. Kartar Singh Sarabha, along with Harnam Singh Tundilat and Jagat Singh, was soon arrested at Chak No. 5, district Lyallpur by Risaldar Ganda Singh who was a British Army officer at that time.
Arrest and Trials
The British government charged the members of the Ghadar Party in the conspiracy case soon after their capture. However, during the court trials, Kartar Singh Sarabha, along with party members, denied all the allegations against them. The revolutionaries said that it was an open challenge to the Britishers and not a conspiracy. The revolutionaries also continued saying that the Britishers were the killers of the patriots of India who sacrificed for the rights of their own country. Kartar Singh Sarabha was insisted on the statement that he was not sorry for the activities in which he was involved in to throw the British rule in India. Instead, Kartar Singh added that he was proud that he challenged the conquerors of his motherland. The failure of his revolt plan made him upset, and mentioning his rights in his own country, he said that every slave had the right to raise his voice against the ruler and fighting for one’s rights could never be considered a crime. He happily accepted the sedition charges on him. It was observed by the judge of the court that Kartar Singh was not interested in British affairs at all and the young revolutionary was full of courage to fight against them. But one last chance was given by the judge to Kartar Singh as Kartar was too young to be hanged. However, Kartar kept his commitment and refused to change it. Kartar was given the opportunity to appeal in the higher court. he refused the chance and stated,
When asked to appeal he retorted, Why should I? If I had more lives than one, it would have been a great honour to me to sacrifice each of them for my country.”
During his imprisonment period at Lahore Central jail, once, Kartar Singh tried to run away by cutting the iron window bars of the jail. He had some instruments provided by his fellow revolutionaries in the prison that he hide under the water pitcher of his room. Soon, the cutting designs on the iron windows were recognised by the jail authorities and failed his plan to escape the jail.
Kartar Singh Sarabha and the other accused of the Ghadar Party were executed on 17 November 1915 by the British government at Lahore, Lahore Central Jail, Punjab Province, British India (present-day Punjab, Pakistan). They were accused of conspiracy charges against the British government. The age of Kartar Singh Sarabha was 19 at the time of his death.
- ‘Shaheed Kartar Singh Sarabha’ a Punjabi Language film was released in 1977 which was based on the sacrifices done by Kartar Singh during the Indian Independence movements.
- Later, to honour the name and struggle of Kartar Singh for the independence of India, a statue of him was placed in Ludhiana, Punjab by the state government.
- The grandfather of Kartar Singh Sarabha went to meet Kartar during his detention days at Lahore jail. There his grandfather asked him why he was wasting his life. He asked,
We are not even sure that the country will benefit from your death. Why are you wasting your life?”
The astonishing answer of Kartar Singh left his grandfather out of words. Kartar said,
So, would you want your grandson to die of an ailment instead? Is this death not a thousand times better than that?”
- The renowned Indian freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, along with his companions Bhagwati Charan Vohra, established Naujawan Bharat Sabha in March 1926. Once, this sabha organised a program to pay to honour the deeds of the Kartar Singh Sarabha, and in the sabha, the portrait of Kartar Singh which was made on a white cloth was underlined by Durga Devi and Sushila Devi with their blood to show that Kartar Singh was committed for the freedom of India.
- Reportedly, Kartar Singh Sarabha gained 14 pounds of fresh weight when he was imprisoned at the Lahore Central Jail. This showed his fearless mindset.
- Bhagat Singh, who was a revolutionary freedom fighter of India, was Kartar Singh’s follower. A picture of Kartar Singh Sarabha was found by the British police from Bhagat Singh’s pocket when he was arrested in the anti-British activities. Later, during a conversation with a media house, the mother of Bhagat Singh, Vidya Wati, narrated that Bhagat used to worship Kartar Singh Sarabha. She stated,
On Bhagat Singh’s arrest, a photo of Sarabha was recovered from him. He always carried this photo in his pocket. Very often, Bhagat Singh would show me that photograph and say, ‘Dear mother, this is my hero, friend and companion.”
- Kartar Singh Sarabha was considered the most dangerous of all revolutionaries by his judge during his court trials. The judge said,
the most dangerous of all rebels”