Taraknath Jogendranath Das (1884-1958)

Taraknath Das was a prominent activist who agitated in Canada and the United States for the rights of immigrants from India. He was a Bengali, born in the village of Majipurah, thirty miles north of Calcutta (Kolkata). His father, Kali Mohan Das worked in Calcutta’s Central Telgraph Office. As a student at Calcutta University during the agitation in 1905 over the partition of Bengal he became active in the revolutionary Dacca Anusilan Samiti (Improvement Society). He left India to avoid arrest and arrived in Seattle in July 1906. In 1907 to 1908 he was employed as an interpreter in the Vancouver office of the U.S. immigration department. In Vancouver in 1908 he edited an English language periodical, Free Hindustan, which challenged the justice of excluding of immigrants from India, and did so from the moment the Canadian Government introduced the continuous journey regulation. In 1914 he obtained American citizenship. At the time of the Komagata Maru he met with leading members of the Shore Committee on the American side of the border, and accompanied them in shopping for revolvers to be sent to India on the ship when it went back. He was a Ghadr party sympathizer, and although he was never a member of the party he was  one of thirty-five charged at the San Francisco Conspiracy trial in 1917 to 1918 and he was subsequently convicted of violating American neutrality. After serving seventeen months of a twenty-two month sentence at McNeil Island Prison, Washington, he chose to stay in the United States. Das had earned a BA (political science and economics) in 1910 and an MA in 1911 and in 1924 he received a PhD from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. In 1924 as well he married his longtime American-born friend and supporter, Mary Keating; in the same year the American justice department took away his American citizenship. He and his friends fought to get it back, and did so with renewed vigor after his wife was denied a passport in 1926 because her husband was not a citizen. In 1927 he won his case and got his American citizenship back, along with more then forty others who had been denaturalized at the same time. He lived most of his life in the U.S. and travelled widely once he had secured his citizenship. He died in New York.

Sources: Sohan Singh Pooni, Keneda de Gadri Yodhe (Amritsar: Singh Brothers, 2009); Paromta Biswas, Colonial Displacements: Nationalist Longing and Identity and Early Indian Intellectuals in the United States (UMI Dissertation Publisher, 2011); James Campbell Ker, Director of Criminal Intelligence, Political Troubles in India, 1907-17 (Published, Delhi: Oriental Publisher, 1973); Joan M. Jensen, Passage from India: Asian Indian Immigrants in North America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988).