Commemorating the Komagata Maru incident

Photos submitted
Photos submitted
Photos submitted
At the seminar on Komagata Maru.
At the seminar on Komagata Maru.
A painting by Orijit Sen.
A painting by Orijit Sen.

THE completion of the centennial anniversary of the Komagata Maru was commemorated with a weeklong series of events held across Metro Vancouver sponsored by the Government of India’s Ministry of Culture.

The first day began with a commemoration on the anniversary date where special guest India’s Joint Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Pramod Jain addressed a crowd of over a hundred dignitaries and guests. He acknowledged that the Komagata Maru incident is an “unwelcome blot” on the history of Vancouver, but emphasized the importance of preserving this story for younger generations. “This is a landmark place and a landmark event in the entire struggle of entire humanity against racism,” Jain said.

Curator Naveen Girn noted, “As the Komagata Maru passengers were stranded in Burrard Inlet just metres from shore, every single one of them ached to be able to walk in Vancouver. It was the dream that made them cross an ocean. We are the fulfilment of their desire to be in Canada. That is an enormous privilege and responsibility.”

Key speakers included MP Jinny Sims, MP Dr. Hedy Fry, BC Attorney General Suzanne Anton, and MLAs Raj Chouhan, Harry Bains and Bruce Ralston, along with Brian Owen from Simon Fraser University and poet Phinder Dulai. Vancouver Deputy Mayor Andrea Reimer declared “Komagata Maru Remembrance Week” on behalf of Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

The second day featured a Komagata Maru seminar entitled “Kal, Kala, and Kahani.” This seminar delved into the past and future legacy, art, and storytelling surrounding the Komagata Maru. Key speakers included Dr. Renisa Mawani (UBC), Satwinder Bains (UFV), Raghuvendra Rao (artist), Renee Saklikar (poet), Milan Singh (SFU), Harbhajan Gill (Komagata Maru Foundation) and Nadeem Parmar (historian and poet).

Also featured were The Worlds Within: Archival Fantasies art exhibition of historical photographs re-imagined by Indian graphic artist and painter Orijit Sen, and a walking tour of historical Komagata Maru-related sites in Downtown Vancouver.

An important highlight included the addition of the 2015 Collection to the SFU Library Komagata Maru website (www.komagatamarujourney.ca/2015Collection). It features 50 new photographs of the Komagata Maru and the early South Asian community, three Punjabi Diaries from the Khalsa Diwan Society (and English translations), excerpts from the unpublished diary of Komagata Maru lawyer J. Edward Bird, rare books, and three mini documentaries about the Komagata Maru and the death of Mewa Singh produced by OMNI Punjabi News. At the heart of these endeavours is an attempt to keep the Komagata Maru legacy alive for future generations.