Komagata Maru Centenary Observed


Ajit Kumar AJIT KUMARWISDOM IAS, New Delhi.

A  year-long centenary commemoration of the Komagata Maru incident — in which 19 Canada-bound Indian immigrants were killed in police firing on September 29, 1914 near Kolkata — was launched here in September 2014. The commemoration was launched by Union Minister of State for Culture Sripad Naik in the presence of three granddaughters of Baba Gurdit Singh who was among the leaders of the 376 immigrants aboard the ship that had been turned away from Canada and forced to return to India. The British imperial government saw the men on the ship as dangerous political agitators, and sent the police to arrest Singh and others. While Singh escaped arrest, 19 men were killed in the firing.
Coins released
The Minister released a set of commemorative coins of Rs. 100 and Rs. 5 denomination at the inaugural function. In his inaugural speech, Mr. Naik said by commemorating Komagata Maru, the nation remembers not only the 376 Indians on board the ship but all the Indians who have moved overseas in search of greener pastures. “It reminds us of a huge and vital role played by those who lived away from the country but kept bonds with India intact and alive,” he said.
A number of events have been planned for the centenary including development of digital archives and a week-long function at Vancouver next year to honour the descendants of the Komagata Maru passengers, including non-Indians and Canadians who extended legal and financial help to those on board. Also under consideration is a proposal from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, to throw light on the journey by tracing it back from Budge Budge in Kolkata to Punjab.
Canada Post releases stamp on Komagata Maru
The Canada Postal department on May 6 2014, released the stamp measuring 31mm x 38mm on Komagata Maru with many Punjabi origin politicians hailing the decision and gracing the occasion.
Komagata Maru, a Japanese steamship, was hired by influential Sikh Baba Gurdit Singh and set sail with 376 Indians aboard and reached Vancouver on May 23 but they were not allowed to disembark. The ship was returned to India and British troops had gunned down several of the occupants at Baj Baj, near Calcutta
"The incident was a black mark on Canadian history. The issuance of a stamp on this historical incident is about recognizing the mistakes made in the past. We need to move forward as we have remembered and recognized the event," said Devinder Shory, Punjabi origin MP of Calgary Northeast.
Komagata Maru tragedy
Baba Gurdit Singh, an influential businessman, had chartered the Komagata Maru. According to history books, 376 Indians boarded the ship from various places which included 340 Sikhs, 24 Muslims and 12 Hindus. It reached Vancouver on May 23, 1914, passing through Hong Kong and Shanghai. Only 20 passengers, who succeeded in establishing their resident status, were allowed to disembark and the ship was sent back to India on July 23. It reached Calcutta on September 27 and the British forces had killed many of the passengers at Baj Baj ghat and had imprisoned others.

Monday, 19th Jan 2015, 10:31:41 AM

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