KHARAGPUR (India): Even as Indo-Canadians commemorate the centenary of the Komagata Maru tragedy of 1914, the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur remembered the heroes of the event by organizing a big workshop and paying tributes to them at Budge Budge in Kolkata where many of them were shot dead on arrival in India.
The Komagata Maru was a Japanese ship hired by a Malaysia-based wealthy Sikh Gurdit Singh in 1914 to bring 376 Indians, mostly Sikhs, into Canada to challenge racist laws of that time. But when the ship reached Vancouver via Hong Kong, its passengers – barring a few – were not allowed to disembark for two months and then forcibly sent back to India where 26 were shot dead by British Indian police on arrival at Budge Budge in Kolkata.
IIT Kharagput- the first major tech institute of independent India – remembered the victims of the Komagata Maru tragedy at a two-day workshop “Remembering the Komagata Maru: Historicizing Indian Migration to Canada” by its Department of Humanities and Social Sciences.
A brainchild of Prof Anjali Gera Roy who has done ground-breaking work on the Indian diaspora and currently teaches at the IIT Kharagpur’s Department of Humanities & Social Sciences, the workshop commemorated the centenary of the tragic journey and return of the Komagata Maru to India.
The workshop began with more than 12 participants from Canada and India addressing a public meeting at the Budge Budge Komagata Maru Memorial on Sunday, April 20.
The public meeting was organized by Ganesh Ghosh, a former chairman of Budge Budge Municipality and historian, and the Gurdwara Shaheed Ganj Budge Budge in which more than 100 Sikh and Bengali residents participated.
Presiding over the meeting, Prof Anjali Gera Roy highlighted the significance of the Komagata Maru episode in India’s history. Others who spoke included distinguished historian Subhas Ranjan Chakraborty, Dr Prabhjot Parmar of University Centre for the Fraser Valley,Vancouver; and Prof Nandi Bhatia of the University of Western Ontario.
The participants paid respects to Baba Gurdit Singh and all those killed in the Budge Budge massacre of 1914. The Gurdwara Shaheed Ganj honoured the participants with siropas, presented by Kolkata’s best known Sikh historian Bachan Singh Saral. The event concluded with a visit to the Budge Budge railway station that has been renamed Komagata Maru Budge Budge station.
The workshop drew a huge response from the academic community in India and abroad.
Professor Ranjan Chakrabarti, internationally renowned historian and vice chancellor of Vidyasagar University at Midnapore, spoke as the chief guest at the workshop held at the Department of Humanities & Social Sciences of IIT Kharagpur.
Professor Anjali Gera Roy introduced the Workshop theme and Professor V N Giri, Head, Department Humanities and Social Sciences, welcomed the guests. Professor Siddhartha Mukhopadhyay, Dean Alumni Affairs & International Relations, IIT Kharagpur opened the Workshop.
Professor Ranjan Chakrabarti felicitated Ganesh Ghosh for his pioneering work on the Budge Budge part of the Komagata journey.
The workshop consisted of three panels in which eminent scholars in historical and literary studies from Canada and India made brief presentations followed by interactive discussions. The first panel on Historical Perspectives included historians Professor Arun Bandopadhyay, Nurul Hasan Professor of History and formerly Dean of the Faculty of Arts, University of Calcutta, Professor Himadri Banerjee, former Chairperson of the Guru Nanak Chair in Indian History, Department of History, Jadavpur University, Professor Subhas Ranjan Chakraborty, former Professor, Presidency College, and Guest Faculty, Calcutta University and Sr Bachan Singh Saral and was moderated by Professor Ranjan Chakrabarti. Professor Nandi Bhatia moderated the second panel on Literary Perspectives that included Professor Harish Sharma, former Professor and Head of Department of History, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, Professor Chaman Lal, Professor (Retired) and former Chairperson of Centre of Indian Languages in Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi (India), Professor Somdatta Mandal, Professor of English at the Department of English and Other Modern European Languages, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan and Dr Prabhjot Parmar, Assistant Professor, Department of English, the University of the Fraser Valley, Abbotsford, Canada. The post lunch session had joint presentations by Sujata Banerjee and Sunayana Maiti, Research Scholars in History, Department of History, Calcutta University and Madhumita Roy and Debarati Dutta in English, Research Scholars, Department of Humanities & Social Sciences IIT Kharagpur. Ashay Gangwar, a final year B Tech student of IIT Kharagpur, presented a peak preview of his short film on the Komagata Maru and a website prepared by five undergraduate students led by Sreeram Praneethn was demonstrated.
A dozen Masters students from the Department of History, University of Calcutta, and undergraduate and graduate students and faculty from IIT Kharagpur participated in the workshop.
Sponsored by Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute and the Indian Council of Historical Research, the workshop concluded with a visit to the Martyr’s Column and the Hijli Detention Centre, IIT Kharagpur.