While Canada is observing the centenary of the Komagata Maru incident, the high-level committee formed by the Punjab government four years ago to commemorate the occasion seems to have become history itself.
The Komagata Maru Yadgari Committee was formed under the chairmanship of then tourism and cultural affairs minister Hira Singh Gabria in 2010. Its main objective was to locate relatives of the Komagata Maru heroes and observe 100 years of the event in 2014. Daljit Singh Cheema, then adviser to the Punjab chief minister and now Rupnagar MLA and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) spokesperson, and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) member Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar were among the committee members, besides noted historian Malwinder Jit Singh Waraich.
In 2010, the committee asked the Punjab government to issue a circular to deputy commissioners across the state to take steps to identify successors of the Komagata Maru heroes.
It was for the first time that the state government was conducting an exercise to find relatives of the 376 Komagata Maru heroes who were eligible to claim benefits under the Swatantarta Sainik Samman Pension Scheme. However, the government failed to complete the exercise.
The committee held some meetings in 2010 to draw a plan for observing 100 years of the 1914 incident. However, its efforts proved futile as the Centre extends benefits of the scheme to freedom fighters' families up to the third generation only and the fourth generation is not eligible for any benefit, including pension. There were hardly any third-generation relatives of Komagata Maru heroes alive in 2010. Moreover, the committee didn't hold any meeting in subsequent years.
"I am really disappointed with the attitude of the Punjab government towards our martyrs. Where is the Komagata Maru Yadgari Committee now? While Canada is observing the centenary and has issued a stamp in this regard, there has been no such activity in Punjab," said Waraich.
Waraich had initiated the struggle to recognise Komagata Maru martyrs as freedom fighters. In 2003, he had filed a writ petition in the Punjab and Haryana high court against the union government's stand of not recognising these martyrs as freedom fighters.
After a prolonged legal fight, the central government gave an affidavit in the high court, recognising Komagata Maru martyrs as freedom fighters.
When contacted, Cheema said, "Hira Singh Gabria had taken this initiative. I was also a committee member. I do not know much about the fate of the committee."
Despite repeated attempts, Gabria could not be contacted for his comment.