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Image Source: www.cbc.ca

By Shruti Pandey

Komagata Maru


Komagata Maru word created a buzz this week.

This week, an assurance came from the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after 102 years of an incident for which he proposed to offer an apology to the victims of Komagata Maru in the House of Commons. He was in the capital city Ottawa on Monday (April 11,2016), for the Baisakhi celebration, and he made an announcement in this regard.

“It was in the House of Commons that the law that prevented the passengers from disembarking was first passed and so it is fitting that the government should apologize there on behalf of all Canadians,” Trudeau said. “That is why next month, on May 18th, I will stand in the House of Commons and offer a full apology for the Komagata Maru incident.”

Calling on reminiscence, he enunciated “We mark the 102nd anniversary of the Komagata Maru incident where 376 passengers, mostly of whom were Sikh dissents arrived in Vancouver and were refused to stay in Canada due to the discriminatory laws of that time. The Komagata Maru’s passengers were seeking refuge and better lives, like millions of immigrants to Canada since. With so much to contribute to their new home, they chose Canada. And we failed them utterly.”

Let’s look at the incidence.

What was Komagata Maru?

A ship that was launched by Charles Connell and Company of Scotstoun on 13 August 1890. She was subsequently acquired by the Shinyei Kisen Goshi Kaisha Company in 1913. The company was owned by four or five individuals who possessed one other ship. She was renamed the Komagata Maru. The following year, she surpassed an incident an Vancouver, Canada that came to be known as “Komagata Maru incident”. In 1924, the ship was renamed Heian Maru. She was wrecked on Cape Soyidmar(Japanese:-{添泊岬}-), Hokkaidō, Japan on 11 February 1926.

When and what happened?

The ship took off with 376 passengers from Hong Kong and arrived at Vancouver Harbour on May 23, 1914, and the people onboard- 340 Sikhs, 24 Muslims and 12 Hindus were all denied for an entry.

Amidst the 376 passengers, 24 British subjects, who hailed from Punjab, were admitted to Canada and the remaining were made to stand on the harbour for two long maonths. After two months of stand-off, they were sent back. Komagata Maru eventually arrived at the Baj Baj Ghat near Calcutta, where about 19 people were killed following an altercation with British soldiers for being members of the Ghadar party. Rests of them were put in jail.

Why was the discrimination done?

An order was passed in 1908 that required all Asiatic migrants to pay 200 dollars each as the immigration fee. Following the order, another immigration act was passed in 1910 that allowed the immigrants to enter Canada only via a continuous journey with no halts in between. Gurdit singh chartered the Japanese ship that sailed on May 23, 1914. The payment of 200 dollars was not done as the passengers on board argued that they belonged to a British colony. Some skirmishes involved ill treatment of Vanocouver cops are they tried to escort out the passengers. The ship was finally sailed back to India.

The gallantry act of the Prime Minister is appreciable. Although it cannot reimburse the lost lives but it surely relieves the grief of Sikhs who form a significant portion of Canadian population.

Shruti Pandey is studying B.tech. from HBTI, kanpur. An ardent fan of football, Indian culture and history and aspires to color the world with words. Twitter: @srt_kaka


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