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Shadow in the Fog Hardcover – 2017
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A hundred years ago, a young man of 34 years age, Dr. Mathra Singh, was sentenced to death by the British at Lahore Central Jail for waging war against the colonizers, bringing to an end a short but brilliant war of independence that was violent in nature and ruthlessly suppressed by the British. Starting from San Francisco where the Ghadar Party was formed it spanned the globe in its reach, taking advantage of the First World War that had just begun, and having global alliances with ‘enemies of enemy’ at the time, Germany, Ireland, and Japan. Dr. Mathra Singh joined the Ghadar Party in San Francisco in 1914, was sent to Hongkong and Shanghai for spreading nationalism and quest for freedom and came back to India as a member of the core team of revolutionaries, being in-charge of bomb making. Traitors and approvers ultimately resulted in failure of the rebellion, following which Dr. Mathra Singh successfully escaped to Afghanistan where he teamed up again with other Indian freedom fighters and continued the fight for independence. On such missions, he went to Russia for seeking help from Tsar Nicholas II with a letter written on gold plate. He also planned to go to Japan via China to continue the fight but was caught, brought back to India and tried under the famous Lahore Conspiracy Case. He was awarded the death penalty and achieved martyrdom on 27 March 1917 (April 2016 to March 2017 is the centenary year).
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History of India is not only amazingly interesting as the country has passed through a long period of turmoil, struggle, sacrifices, sufferings exploitation ,sometimes helplessness and despair sometimes periods of defiance but never of complete surrender. History has been mutilated and distorted by several foreigners as well as Indians. It is very strange that there are periods which have been put under the wraps or there is ominous silence about these glorious pages of history. The period of 1901 to 1930 is one such example.
It was a chance that I could lay my hands on this book by JPS Kohli. Actually it shook me up and took me back to the hidden times of our past but not very distant past. After reading few pages I felt a sort of vibration and the urge to know more became very strong. This book should not be read in isolation and I had to find a few other books of that time like “India as I knew it 1885-1925 by , Michael O’dwyer” and many contemporary books and journals. These men were called rebellions and revolutionaries by these authors. That is what these daredevils were. Kohli has done superb research about Ghadar Movement and his portion “Understanding Ghadar “ is a gem in description.
This book is supposed to be a biography of a great and admirable person Dr Mathra Singh who not only organised and channelized freedom struggle against a super power but laid down his life in doing so. He was a true martyr but our almost all books are/were silent on his contribution and sacrifice. This book has brought forth history in its true sense and should not be limited to as a biographical account. He was put to death to silence a voice of courage and strength who dared to stand up to the might of Britsh empire.
The author took upon himself to bring to light these portions of historical events which are not known to many of us. Enormous amount of research, efforts and resources must have gone in to undertaking and accomplishing of this gigantic task. It is my pleasure to say that efforts have been extremely successful. Kohli has gone deep into events and the chronological details of happenings at far flung locations. How the events were cast by the Government of that period highlights an era of deceit, falsehoods, butchery and high level of torture and exploitation. The trials were eyewash and judgments were finalised before the end of arguments.
The period of 1901 to 1925 was a period of supreme sacrifices by many young and daring persons. Ghadar movement took place during this period in 1913.. It was a period when WW one happened. During those periods of utter turmoil Dr Mathra Singh played a key role for organising with in India and in several other friendly and not so friendly countries ,when means on communication and travel were very limited. The sufferings and sacrifices of these daredevils cannot and should not be sidelined or ignored. Dr Mathra Singh with his compatriots laid the deep and strong foundations for achievement of the main goal- FREEDOM. Author has brought forth last words of Dr Mathra Singh to his brother Labh Singh and these words describe the material he was made of and the dreams he cherished for the Nation.
Language the book is quite lucid and easily understood but author has gone in for too long word to word details like court proceedings. He has taken great care for authentication of events but this has lengthened the descriptions. These could have been reduced. Moreover Kohli should have offered some suggestions as to what needs to be done by readers and the State to correct the history. Author it seems has left it to the wisdom of the audience (readers) to initiate this aspect but will it happen?