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Songs of Revolt

Poetic responses to the literature of the Ghadar movement

By Ali Mir, Bushra Rehman, Purvi Shah, and Syed Mohammed Shahed

This is the second in a series of pieces related to the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Ghadar Party. Read the others: a short history of the movement and the global imagination it sparked, and a look at its legacy today.


In the early months of 1913, a coalition of predominantly Punjabi Indian immigrant workers and students across California, Oregon, and Canada forged a political organization that called for India to be liberated from British rule. They called themselves the Ghadar Party—ghadar in Urdu means mutiny or revolt.

The Ghadar Party condemned religious hatred and caste oppression; used community organizing and social work as their primary tactics; and looked to literature, art, poetry and commentary to spread the word about resistance. Much of this literature was published in the pages of The Ghadar, one of the newspapers around which the party was built, and whose first issue hit stands on November 1, 1913, 100 years ago.

We asked four poets to delve into the Ghadar literary archives and write poems that engage with or pay tribute to poetry of the Ghadar movement. Read on to hear their contemporary songs of revolt.

1. Ali Mir: “What Kartar Would Have Said”

2. Purvi Shah: “You Hold Twilight”

3. Bushra Rehman: “Take Advantage of the Situation and Revolt”

4. Syed Mohammed Shahed: “Rebellion is a Continuing Effort”

Published in collaboration with the South Asia Solidarity Initiative, which hosted Echoes of Ghadar, a convergence of activists, organizers, and artists from across South Asia in conversation with activists from the United States, inspired by the legacy of the Ghadar Party, in late October.