Komagata Maru

The Komagata Maru was a Japanese steamship that sailed from Hong Kong to Vancouver, Canada via Japan in May, 1914. It was carrying 376 passengers who were immigrants from Punjab, India. Of these, only 24 were granted admittance in Canada when the ship docked in Vancouver. At that time, Canada had laws restricting entry of migrants of Asian origin. Following a two month stalemate, the ship and its 352 passengers were escorted out of the dock by the Canadian military and forced to sail back to India.

The ship returned to Calcutta on 27 September and was stopped by the British. The passengers were put under guard and the ship was allowed to dock in Budge Budge, Calcutta. The British believed that the passengers were law breakers and political agitators. When the police sought to arrest the persons it viewed as leaders of the group, there was resistance and a riot ensued. The police fired shots and 19 passengers were killed. Baba Gurdit Singh, who was one of the persons the British wanted to arrest, escaped with some other persons. Most of the remaining passengers were either arrested or sent back to Punjab. Baba Gurdit Singh later surrendered to the police.

Legacy

In 1951, the Indian government erected a monument at Budge Budge to commemorate the massacre that occurred there.  A host of actions have been taken by the Canadians also to mark the incident. A plaque commemorating the 80th anniversary of the arrival of the Komagata Maru steamship was placed at the Vancouver harbour in 1994. A monument in remembrance of the incident was unveiled in 2012 in Vancouver. A stamp commemorating the centenary anniversary of the steamship was released by Canada Post in May, 2014.

Government Apology

In 2008, the Canadian PM, Stephen Harper, officially apologized for the Komagata Maru incident on behalf of the Canadian government. A resolution calling for the same had been earlier passed by the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia (the province where Vancouver is situated).

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