Behari Lal Varma (1883- )

Behari Lal Verma played an active role in the early planning of the voyage of the Komagata Maru. He was a Hindu from Posie village near Garhshankar in the Hoshiapur district of Punjab. He graduated from the Hindu reformist Dayanand Anglo-Vernacular High School in Hoshiarpur in 1903; a year after graduating, he emigrated to Fiji where he served in the police force at Suva. Four years later he arrived in Vancouver on the SS Monteagle, and he was one of the passengers landed after a court challenge to the continuous passage rule when it was first initituted. Over the next four years he moved up and down the west coast of Canada and the US, studying for a year at the University of Washington in Seattle and for six months at a polytechnic college in Oakland and working in a sawmill near Portland before coming back to Vancouver in 1911 to study engineering and science at McGill University College. In California he spent time with the Ghadr leader Har Dyal, and he knew the leading activists in Vancouver. In December 1913 he went to Hong Kong on the Empress of India where he tried unsuccessfully to charter a boat to carry Punjabi immigrants to Canada. He was corresponding with activists in Vancouver and his efforts led directly to Gurdit’s Singh’s decision to get involved in the chartering of the Komagata Maru. By the time the Komagata Maru sailed, however, he had returned to India. According to Indian police files he was in California in 1922, and then running a passport agency in Ludhiana, Punjab, from 1927 to 1929; and back in North America in 1930, living on the Mexican border city of Juarez and in touch with Ghadr Party members in California.

Sources: Struggle for Free Hindustan: Ghadr Directory, Punjab Section, 1915 (published Mehrauli, New Delhi); Library and Archives Canada, Governor General’s Files, RG 7 G21, Vol. 200, File 332, Vol. 2 (b), L.W. Crippen to the Times of London, 30 March 1908; Jaswant Singh. Baba Gurdit Singh: Komagata Maru (Jallundhur: New Book Company, 1965).