The Conceptual World of the Ghadarites




Ghadar movement, historical consciousness, colonialism, social theory, Indic Enlightenment, non-dualism, secularism, federalism, anarchism, socialism, communism, resistance.


The Ghadar movement is framed by scholars variously as socialist or proto-communist, anarchist, secular or religious nationalist. These theoretical frames developed in the European historical contexts to oppose liberalism and modernism. Framing historical experiences of colonialism and resistance to it by using theories developed in radically different conditions of European capitalism and Enlightenment, disrupts history-writing and the historical consciousness of people in the Third World.  This paper examines the historical consciousness that guided Ghadar resistance to colonial rule. How are we to understand the distinction between system and ‘lifeworld’ that Jurgen Habermas makes in a context where the ‘system’ is capitalist /imperialist/ modernist and the ‘lifeworld’ is South Asian/ Indian Enlightenment/ colonial? What was the ‘lifeworld’ of the Ghadar leaders that informed their understanding of nationalism and state, secularism and religion, liberation and justice? Theories contribute to creating historical consciousness and identity by showing us a view of the world that we can identify with, by providing a sense of continuity with the past. Disruption of South Asia’s historical consciousness has had profound consequences for the people of the subcontinent. This paper locates the Ghadar movement in the structural transformations of South Asia after the end of the First War of Independence in 1857 known as the Great Ghadar. The paper takes common theoretical lenses used to analyse the Ghadar movement in academic scholarship: secular and ethno-religious nationalism, anarchism and socialism as its point of departure to sketch the theoretical and philosophical routes through which Ghadar leaders arrived at comparable values and political positions. It shows how they could be secular, religious, anarchist and socialist simultaneously. The Ghadar movement is important because it is the last major resistance movement that saw South Asia through South Asian lenses and attempted to address problems of colonialism and national independence in ways that was consistent with Indian historical consciousness and cultural and intellectual traditions.

Author Biography

Radha D'Souza, School of Law, University of Westminster

Reader in Law, University of Wesminster


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