Grand Opening of Komagata Maru Park at Canada on June 22
Brampton, May 25, 2019: A beautiful Park has been set up in memory of Komagata Maru martyrs in Brampton in the Ontario province of Canada.
The official opening of SS Komagata Maru Park will be done on June 22, 2019 on the 105th anniversary of the arrival of Komagata Maru in Canada.
Located at 10705 Bramalea Road, amenities at the Komagata Maru Park include a playground, splash pad and picnic area.
The park has been named after the SS Komagata Maru ship and pays tribute to those who were on the ship, and honours all immigrants, their struggles, triumphs and contributions to the mosaic of Canada. This event will be the first Canadian commemoration of the Komagata Maru ship outside of British Columbia .
History of Komagata Maru
Gurdit Singh Sandhu from Sarhali (not to be confused with Gurdit Singh Jawanda from Haripur Khalsa, a 1906 Indo-Canadian immigration pioneer), was a Singaporean businessman who was aware that Canadian exclusion laws were preventing Punjabis from immigrating there. He wanted to circumvent these laws by hiring a boat to sail from Calcutta to Vancouver. His aim was to help his compatriots whose previous journeys to Canada had been blocked.
Though Gurdit Singh was apparently aware of regulations when he chartered the ship Komagata Maru in January 1914, he continued with his enterprise in order to challenge the continuous journey regulation, in the hope of opening the door for immigration from India to Canada.
At the same time, in January 1914, he publicly espoused the Ghadarite cause while in Hong Kong. The Ghadar Party was an organization founded by Indian residents of the United States and Canada in June 1913 with the aim of liberating India from British rule. It was also known as the Hindi Association of the Pacific Coast.
The passengers consisted of 340 Sikhs, 24 Muslims, and 12 Hindus, all British subjects. One of the Sikh passengers, Jagat Singh Thind, was the youngest brother of Bhagat Singh Thind, an Indian-American Sikh writer and lecturer on "spiritual science" who was involved in an important legal battle over the rights of Indians to obtain U.S. citizenship (United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind).
The Komagata Maru incident was widely cited at the time by Indian groups to highlight discrepancies in Canadian immigration laws. Further, the inflamed passions in the wake of the incident were widely cultivated by the Indian revolutionary organisation, the Ghadar Party, to rally support for its aims. In a number of meetings ranging from California in 1914 to the Indian diaspora, prominent Ghadarites including Barkatullah, Tarak Nath Das, and Sohan Singh used the incident as a rallying point to recruit members for the Ghadar movement, most notably in support of promulgating plans to coordinate a massive uprising in India. Their efforts failed due to lack of support from the general population.
In 1952 the Indian government set up a memorial to the Komagata Maru martyrs near the Budge Budge. It was inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The monument is locally known as the Punjabi Monument and is modelled as a kirpan (dagger) rising up toward the sky.
A tripartite agreement was signed between the Kolkata Port Trust, Union Ministry of Culture and the Komagata Maru Trust for the construction of a G + 2 building behind the existing memorial. The building will house an administrative office and library in the ground floor, a museum in the first floor and auditorium in the second. The total cost of the construction will amount to 24 million Indian rupees(INR).
In 2014 government of India issued two special coins, INR 5 and INR 100, to mark the centenary of the Komagata Maru incident
The Canadian Government made claims that amongst the passengers were a number of Indian nationalists intent on creating disorder (see Ghadar conspiracy, Annie Larsen arms plot, and Christmas Day Plot.) However this was a public relations cover for its real motive for turning back the ship – a dislike of and discrimination against Indian nationals due to their ethnicity.
Firing at harbour on return to India
Komagata Maru arrived in Calcutta on September 27. Upon entry into the harbour, the ship was stopped by a British gunboat, and the passengers were placed under guard. The government of the British Raj saw the men on Komagata Maru not only as self-confessed lawbreakers, but also as dangerous political agitators. The British government suspected that white and South Asian radicals were using the incident to create rebellion among South Asians in the Pacific Northwest. When the ship docked at Budge Budge, the police went to arrest Baba Gurdit Singh and the twenty or so other men that they viewed as leaders. He resisted arrest, a friend of his assaulted a policeman, and a general riot ensued. Shots were fired and nineteen of the passengers were killed. Some escaped, but the remainder were arrested and imprisoned or sent to their villages and kept under village arrest for the duration of the First World War. This incident became known as the Budge Budge riot.
Ringleader Gurdit Singh Sandhu managed to escape and lived in hiding until 1922. Mahatma Gandhi urged him to give himself up as a "true patriot". Upon his doing so he was imprisoned for five years.