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NEW DELHI: Three granddaughters of Komagata Maru hero Baba Gurdit Singh – Harbhajan Kaur, Satwant Kaur and Balbir Kaur – were honoured and two commemorative coins of Rs 100 and Rs 5 were released as the Union ministry of culture kicked off year-long commemoration of the centenary of the incident.
Komagata Maru was a Japanese ship that was hired by Malaysia-based rich Sikh Baba Gurdit Singh to bring 376 Indians, mostly Sikhs,to Canada to challenge the racist laws of the time in 1914. Since both India and Canada were British dominions at that time, the Indians should have the right to enter Canada. But the Canadian government of that time put in place various clauses in laws to bar Indians from entering Canada.
Komagata Maru, which entered Vancouver harbour on May 23, 1914, was forcibly sent back to India after two months. On reaching Budge Budge in Calcutta in September 1914, the passengers were subjected to firing by British Indian police in which 19 of them were killed.
Paying tributes to the Komagata Maru heroes on Monday, Union minister of state for culture minister Shripad Naik said the event was to remember the sufferings of Indians who went abroad during the last century to better their lives.
The minister said the commemoration “reminds us of a huge and vital role played by those who lived away from the country but kept bonds with India intact and alive.’’
Among the major events planned for the year-long commemoration are an international seminar on `Komagata Maru: Context, Significance and Legacy.’
Punjabi University at Patiala will also produce a play called `Komagata Maru – 1914’ as part of the commemoration.
A week-long event is also planned in Vancouver next year from May 23 to May 30 to highlight the significance of the Komagata Maru.