Komagata hero’s kin wants a memorial in Vancouver

May 26th, 2008 - 10:51 am ICT by admin  

By Gurmukh Singh
Toronto, May 26 (IANS) The apology by the Canadian province of British Columbia for sending back the Komagata Maru ship, bringing 376 immigrants from India 94 years ago, has been welcomed by the family of the hero of the tragic event. Tejpal Singh, great grandson of Gurdit Singh who hired the Komagata Maru ship from the Japanese to bring the 376 Indians to Canada, told IANS, “We welcome the long overdue apology from the province which didn’t let the ship anchor in May 1914. Now, it is the turn of the federal government to issue a public apology for sending back the Indians who, like Canadians, were also British subjects at that time.”

Singh, who came to Canada five years ago and is settled in the Toronto suburb of Brampton, said his family would wish to see a suitable memorial to the Komagata heroes.

The memorial should be erected in Vancouver where the ship reached on May 23, 1914, he said.

“We want an official honour for all the passengers who challenged the then racist laws which didn’t allow Indians to enter Canada,” he said.

Singh said his great grandfather father, who was a very rich railway contractor in Malaya (now Malaysia), sacrificed everything to serve his countrymen.

“On a visit to Hong Kong as part of his business, he was moved to see the plight of Indians who had come from Calcutta and were waiting to catch a connecting ship to Canada. But no Canada-bound ship picked them up as the then `continuous journey’ Canadian law would not let them in because they didn’t come directly from India,” Singh explained.

He said his great grandfather paid a monthly lease of $11,000 for the Komagata Maru ship to bring the stranded Indians to Canada.

“Gurdit Singh left his thriving business in Malaya to accompany these passengers to Canada. Then he went back with them all the way to Calcutta where he escaped police bullets and went underground to resurface after six long years,” Singh said.

He said the Canadian government should also include a chapter on the Komagata Maru event in school textbooks to inform the coming generations about this racist tragedy.

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