Apologise to Indians on Komagata, MP tells Canada PM

June 12th, 2009 - 12:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, June 12 (IANS) A Canadian parliamentarian has urged the prime minister to apologise to the Indian Canadian community for the 1914 Komagata Maru episode that saw a ship carrying Indians being turned away and 20 passengers being killed on reaching Indian shores.
Komagata Maru was a Japanese ship which brought 376 Indians to Vancouver in British Columbia province in May 1914. But the racist authorities didn’t allow the Indians to disembark and sent the ship forcibly back to India two months later.

Once the ship reached Kolkata in September 1914, 20 passengers were shot dead by police.

Though current Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, has said ’sorry’ for the episode at a public function in Vancouver two years ago, Indian Canadian associations have been demanding that the apology be tendered in the nation’s parliament.

Raising the issue in the House of Commons Thursday, Don Davies, who represents a Vancouver constituency in parliament, demanded that the prime minister apologise to the Indian Canadian community for “the most shameful events in Canadian history”.

The MP said: “On that date in (May) 1914, the Japanese ship Komagata Maru arrived in Vancouver with almost 400 passengers. Most of these people were Sikhs, and there were also Hindus and Muslims on board.”

He said the Indians had “every legitimate reason to be welcomed to Canada, (but) the Canadian government did not allow them to disembark”.

“In truth, this decision was a racist one, taken to prevent South Asians from entering our country.”

Referring to the killing of 20 passengers by British troops on their return to India, the MP said: “This is a ‘black mark’ in British Columbia (Vancouver where the ship anchored is in British Columbia province) history that has long cried out for redress.”

He recalled scenes at a recent vigil in Vancouver in memory of the ship and said he was moved by what Indian community leaders said.

“Their words were clear: they want what is just and long overdue - a proper and dignified apology in the House of Commons by the prime minister of Canada.”

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