Kartar Singh Sarabha (24 May, 1896 – 16 November, 1915) began his involvement in the Gadar Party in San Francisco in 1912. Sarabha was born in India in the year 1896. After his graduation from high school in 1911, he arrived at the University of California, Berkeley to continue his studies in engineering.
In Berkeley, he joined the Gadar party in 1913. Around this time, he also learned how to fly. He returned to India in 1914 to fight for his country’s independence. On November 16th, 1915, Sarabha was hanged at the tender age of 19.
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 an issue of The Ghadar dated August 5, 1914. Thousands of copies of the paper were distributed among army cantonments, villages and cities. Kartar Singh reached Calcutta via Colombo on board the SS Salamin, in November, 1914. He was accompanied by two other Gadhar leaders, Satyen Sen and Vishnu Ganesh Pingle, along with a large number of Gadhar militants. With a letter of introduction from Jatin Mukherjee, the Jugantar leader, Kartar Singh and Pingle met Rasbehari Bose at Benares to inform him that twenty thousand more Gadhar members were expected very soon . 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 rob the houses of rich people, to finance the armed insurrection. 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 January 25, 1915, it was decided in a meeting on February 12 that the uprising should be started on February 21. It was planned that after capturing the cantonments of Mian Mir and Ferozepur, mutinies were to be engineered near Ambala and Delhi.
The judgement in respect of the 63 arrested Gadharites was pronounced on September 13, 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 he committed. He does not deserve mercy and should be sentenced to death”. Kartar Singh was hanged in the Central Jail of Lahore on November 16, 1915, when he was only 18.
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. The judges during his trial were impressed by his intellectual skills, but nonetheless 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:”Sewa desh di jinddhiye badhi aukhigallan karnia dher sukhalliyan ne,jinha desh sewa ‘ch pair payaohna lakh museebtan jhalliyan ne.”Serving ones country is very difficultIt is so easy to talkAnyone who walked on that pathMust endure millions of calamities.