By Deepika Choudhary
A Japanese ship was chartered by Gurdit Singh from India to Vancouver containing 376 Indians, among whom 340 were Sikhs, 24 Muslims and 12 Hindus. The ship entered Vancouver on May 23, 1914, by crossing through Hongkong and Shanghai, but the ship was not allowed to arrive in port. While, the ship remained posted there from May 23 to July 23, 1914. Moreover, out of 376 Indians, only 20 were successful to land in Vancouver by showing their residence Status. This incident of being denied entrance to Indian immigrants into Canada upon their arrival in Vancouver is remembered as “Komagata Maru.”
Moreover, this is the not the end of injustice done to them, when the ship reached back to India (Calcutta) on September 27, British army (as India was under British rule) killed 19 passengers and imprisoned the remaining. The occurrence is known as “the Budge Budge Riot”.
The 100th anniversary of Komagata Maru was observed on May 23, 2014. On 26 May, 2014, Canada Post issued the stamp of about 31mm x 38mm on the Komagata Maru to honour the centenary of the Kamagata, which was considered as a black day in the history of Canada. The releasing of the stamp was the sort of realising the wrong done in the past .Even the Punjab government (India) has not taken such a big step to show respect to the people of that incident. However,issuance of a stamp by Canada post is a kind of undo to the injustice done 100 years ago. This incident is relevant as it embarks on the biggest change in the Immigration law and thinking of the Canadian government.
In order to end the Brown invasion, the Canadian government passed the Continuous Passage Act in 1908, according to which if an Indian wanted to come to Canada, he has to come via direct passage. In addition to this, $200 per person fee was set as the requirement to enter British Columbia, Canada. This act was hardship to the brown immigrants keeping in mind the money and distance from Canada to India. Moreover, they made Asian Exclusion Act to stop the entry of the Asian Immigrants in 1908.
Both the federal and provincial government of British Columbia felt sorry for the incident of the Komagata Maru. The monument in the memory of the Komagata Maru was made public on July 23, 2012.Upon being acknowledged as the part of Canadian history, many books, documentary and plays were made on the incident of Komagata Maru.
Canadian immigration law has traveled a long distance from the Komagata Maru incident to the present time.The Canadian government is opening more and more avenues for people from different countries to settle in Canada. The recent relaxing of federal skilled category and increasing the number of occupations in the occupation list is a preset example. Canada is now being recognized as a cosmopolitan country, with minority communities from different countries being equally respected.