Post the century of the unfortunate incident, Canada has now officially recognized the Komagata Maru venue as site of historic significance.
Canada has officially bestowed the site of Komagata Maru as a site of national of historic significance. This follows the apology by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the House of Commons, earlier in May, 2016 for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident. Harjit Singh Sajjan, the Defence Minister of Canada, has recently inaugurated a commemorative plague at the venue of the Komagata Maru in Vancouver.
In May 1914, Gurdit Singh, a Hong Kong/Singapore-based Sikh businessman, a follower of the Ghadar Party, who wanted to bypass Canadian laws of immigration, had rented Komagata Maru, a Japanese ship, to transport 376 persons, mostly economic migrants from Punjab,travelling from India to Canada to fight the racist regulations of that time. The passengers of the ship were not allowed to land when it anchored in Vancouver. The ship was made to return to India after two months and about 20 passengers were hacked to death by British Indian police when it reached Kolkata.
Harjit opined on the significance of the day by stating that the Canadian government had refused to allow 376 immigrants to enter the country on this day, 102 years ago, as their country of origin was different. Harjit added that it gives him immense honour as a representative of the Canadian Government to support the South Asian community and remember the Komagata Maru Incident as an event of national historic importance which played a major role in shaping the values, including multi-culturalism, to enhance the strength of our country today.
A statement from the Canadian government reflects on the significance of the Komagata Maru tragedy and the prevailing regulations at that time that enabled Canada to be indifferent to the sufferings of the ship’s passengers. The statement also mentioned that the significance given to the Komagata Maru incident site offers a chance to Canadians to understand the different facets of the Indian history, diversity and the learning gained from it. However, this unfortunate incident wasn’t only the fault of Canada’s, but it was also Britain’s. Both countries violated the passengers’ rights, even though those rights had not become officially recognized yet by the international statutes such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
by Ashwani Srivastva