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History of Komagata Maru – An Unforgettable Incident


Let’s go into the brief about the story of Komagata Maru Incident that can never be forgotten. When the Punjabis living in British India got the opportunity to move to Canada under the direction of the British Empire, they were happy about this country. They told about the life here through letters to their villages. With which many people were influenced and the idea of going to Canada also started to arise in their hearts.

How were the Indians treated in Canada in 20th century?

In those days, because India and Canada were both part of the British Empire, so there was no requirement of any kind of visa. People had already started moving to Canada before the beginning of the 20th century. And in the 20th century, the number of Punjabis in Canada was around 2000. But the sad part was that the white people living in Canada were not even happy with the migration of Indian and African people. This was clearly seen from the non-white people’s behavior.

At that time, no Indian had the right to take a decision in the judicial system, and neither does anyone have the right to defend a case as a lawyer, nor does anyone have the right to vote. The wages as compared to Canadian whites were also very low. According to the old people, they worked all day and whites paid only 10 cents.

Two conditions for Komagata Maru Ship

Therefore, with full planning, the British Canadian government passed a law called the Continue Passage Act to stop this immigration. That whoever wants to come from this British Empire to Canada, he should come directly from his country to Canada. Without stopping at any other country or place, they put another condition that whoever is coming, he must have at least $200.

Now, it was very difficult to fulfill these two conditions. Because many ships were under the British white people at that time. With that, people did not have so much money. And this was well known by Canadian lawmakers.

Role of Baba Gurdit Singh Ji

When a famous and successful businessman Baba Gurdit Singh Ji from a Sarhali village in Tarn Taran District, Punjab India found out about these two conditions, Baba Gurdit Singh Ji took it as a challenge he was living in Malaysia at that time, Without any delay, he rented a cargo steamship from the Japanese SK Goshi Kaisha. The ship’s name was Komagata Maru.

He got tickets ready to go to Canada in this ship. And when the tickets sales started in Hong Kong, and the police of Hong Kong found out that someone is selling tickets without getting authorization or permission, they arrested Baba Gurdit Singh Ji under charges of illegal ticket selling and illegal voyage. They took Komagatta Maru ship into the custody of the Home Guard.

After arresting him, further instructions, what to do next the police of Hong Kong were get either from Canada or from England. Because the ship was going to Canada and Continue Passage Act was placed by the British government. When there were no instructions, the Hong Kong authorities gave permission to sail Komangatta Maru ship on 4th April, 1914.

How many people boarded on Ship?

After sailing the ship from Hong Kong, on 8th April, the ship reached Shanghai, China, from where 111 people boarded the ship. On 14th April, 86 people boarded the ship from the Port of Moji, Japan, 14 people from port of Yokohama, Japan. And in total, 376 people boarded the Komagata Maru ship in the hope of a better life for Canada.

But when the ship sailed from Shanghai, China, a German press from there leaked this news to the British press. The British press also used a lot of examples and published news and also did a radio talk show. Among many of the news, in one news it was also written that Boats of Hindu on Way to Vancouver and Hindu Invasion of Canada, with this people living in Canada & governments were got angary. But on the other hand, Punjabi people living in Canada at that time were very happy that their brother/sisters are coming and they started preparations for their welcome.

Why was the Komagata Maru denied entry in canada?

On 23rd May, 1914, when the ship reached at Vancouver Port, Burrard Inlet. But unfortunately, no passenger was allowed to enter Canada. The ship was not allowed to enter Canada. The Canadian government said that the ship was not coming directly from your country to Canada and you all the do not have $200 with you. The Punjabis living in Canada also filed a case against them through a lawyer but they also threatened him and sent him back from Vancouver port.

After the heated battle of two months, 24 people were successful in entering Canada. But the remaining 352 people were forced to return. In these two months, neither water was given to them, nor food, nor medicine to the sick. Then Baba Gurdit Singh Ji said I want to ask you that if you were in our condition, how would you feel? For the past three days, we have not even got water to drink. You have to eat three times a day and drink water any time. We have not got anything.

The Canadian Punjabis went to the ship and spoke to Baba Gurdit Singh Ji that if anything happens to you or any other Punjabi, we will also die here. We will put Vancouver City on fire. It is better if you go back and express the British Indian government of this behavior.

What happened when Komagata Maru ship returned to India?

After a lot of understanding, finally on July 23, 1914, the Komagata Maru ship returned to India. And the story did not end here. When the Komangatta Maru ship returned to India 17 miles from Kolkata, it reached Budge Budge Ghat on September 26, 1914, Instead of people get sympathy, the British Indian government ordered to arrest them. With this, all the people sitting in the ship went out in anger.

On the other side, the British government shot them and killed 21 people. In this attack, Baba Gurdit Singh Ji succeeded in saving the lives of some Sikhs and he reached Punjab, where he did his struggle and reach other people. This news spread like fire all over the world.

The Punjabis living in Canada also left jobs for the Canadian government. And the medals and certificates given by government got burned in Vancouver Gurudwara Sahib. The expense of $ 60,000 on the Komagata Maru ship was also paid by the Canadian-Punjabis.

Later in 1951, in the memory of those 21 people, a monument was also built at Budge Budge by Indian government. In 2013, the name of the Budge Budge railway station was changed to Komagata Maru Budge Budge Station.

Komagata Maru Apology in House of Commons

In 2008, the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially apologized for the Komagata Maru incident on behalf of the Canadian government. And again in May 2016, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also apologized for the incident in the House of Commons.

Final Thoughts

So friends, this was the whole story of the Komagata Maru ship. We hope that such incidents never happen again in the future. And people and governments should learn from the past History.

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