Ambassador’s lunch

India’s Ambassador to the U.S. Harsh Vardhan Shringla (right) attended a luncheon June 21 at the Gadar Memorial in San Francisco, Calif., to discuss plans for refurbishing the historic site, which gave birth to the Indian American movement for the British to leave India. Also shown here is Sanjay Panda, India’s consul general to the West Coast region. (Sunita Sohrabji/India-West photo)

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla revealed plans for the restoration of the historic Gadar Memorial at a special reception here June 21 afternoon.

Arvind Iyer, the chief architect on the project, told India-West that a staff member from the San Francisco Planning Commission, along with officials from the city’s Fire Department, building inspector, and the police department are scheduled to meet with him to discuss the proposal July 9. After receiving their inputs, Iyer will submit a final proposal to the San Francisco Planning Commission.

The Planning Commission is expected to take 3-4 months to approve the project, during which time residents in the small neighborhood in San Francisco’s Richmond District must be informed. The project will then be posted on the San Francisco City Council’s consent calendar for final approval, barring any push-back from neighbors, said Iyer.

The Gadar Memorial was initially built in 1914 and refurbished in 1974. It is the birthplace of the Gadar Party, a movement led primarily by Indian Americans to support India’s independence from the British. The movement was led and funded primarily by Sikh American farmers from the Central Valley and students at UC Berkeley.

The hall had an electric printing press onsite, which printed out 10,000 copies of a six-page newspaper every week, which was then distributed throughout the U.S. and sent by ship to India, according to Inder Singh, chairman of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin. The newspaper was first written in Urdu by Lal Har Dayal, then translated into Punjabi, and stamped and addressed manually. (See previous story India-West story: https://bit.ly/2tWCPw4)

The memorial burned down in the 1950s, and was last restored in 1974.

The Indian government has committed to paying for the restoration of the building, a $9 million project expected to be completed in 2021. The new structure will host an auditorium, museum, a library, and a meeting room, among other features.

Speaking to a packed auditorium at the Gadar Memorial June 21, Shringla said: “The idea is to bring the building back to its original beauty, and to make this a focal point for our community as a remembrance to the Gadar Party, who struggled for our freedom.”

Portraits of several prominent Indian American freedom fighters adorn the walls of the building. Many left their farms, families, and studies to return to India to fight for Independence.

“The restoration project for the Gadar Memorial has been on the back burner for a long time, but under (India’s Consul General to the West Coast region Sanjay Panda’s) direction, the project is coming to fruition,” said Shringla, who was in town to speak at the Bay Area Council Economic Institute’s launch of a new report that examines economic ties between Northern California and India. (See separate story.)

Iyer presented the blueprints for the project at the ambassador’s luncheon, and said he hoped for a groundbreaking by the end of the year. Many long-time Indian American residents of the Central Valley — some the progeny of Gadar Party freedom fighters — attended the luncheon to receive updates on the project.

Panda told the audience that the facade will be the same as it was when originally built; he is hoping to match the original color scheme.

“It is a very ambitious project,” he said.

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