CALGARY, Canada—A book named ‘Komagatamaru Da Asli Sach’ (The Real Story of Komagatamaru) was released by prominent Sikh leaders and writers in Calgary (Canada) yesterday. Written in Punjabi script, the book has been authored by renowned Historian Rajwinder Singh Rahi.
The Book describes entire episode of the Komagatamaru ship tragedy, including its hiring, departure from Hong Kong, the forceful return by the Canadian authorities, and sinking of the ship. The writer has penned the sufferings endured by the passengers in detail and has explained the matchless courage depicted by the passengers until their last breath.
The book also illustrates the struggle of Sikhs in Canada for about a century, which ultimately led Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to offer an apology in the House of Commons on May 16, 2017, regarding the Komagatamaru tragedy.
Addressing the seminar on this occasion, journalist cum writer, Jaspal Singh Sidhu, said that the book contains many hidden facts about the tragedy which had been ignored and suppressed by Indian historians, until now.
Sikh Historian Ajmer Singh, Executive Producer of the movie The Black Prince, S. Jasjit Singh, S. Bir Singh Chauhan, S. Robinder Singh, S. Baljinder Singh Sandhu and S. Janmeet Singh Khalra etc. also addressed the gathering on this occasion.
The Komagata Maru incident involved the Japanese steamship Komagata Maru on which a group of citizens of the British regime attempted to immigrate to Canada in 1914 but were denied entry. Komagata Maru sailed from Hong Kong, then a holding of the British Empire, via Shanghai, China, and Yokohama, Japan, to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in 1914, carrying 376 passengers from Punjab, British held India. Of them, 24 were admitted to Canada, but the other 352 passengers were not allowed to disembark in Canada, and the ship was forced to return to India. The passengers comprised 340 Sikhs, 24 Muslims, and 12 Hindus, all British subjects.
Komagata Maru arrived in Kolkata on September 27. Upon entry into the harbour, the ship was stopped by a British gunboat, and the passengers were placed under guard. The British government 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 is also known as the Budge Budge riot.
This was one of several incidents in the early 20th century in which exclusion laws in Canada and the United States were used to exclude immigrants of Asian origin.