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Indo-Canadian does mural on Komagata Maru

In 1914, Indian emigrants aboard the ship Komagata Maru were barred entry and denied food, despite having valid passports.

india Updated: Nov 27, 2006 18:05 IST

A popular Indo-Canadian artist has just completed a large outdoor mural in Surrey, British Columbia, depicting the infamous incident of 1914 when 376 Indian emigrants aboard the ship Komagata Maru were barred entry despite having valid passports.

The vessel sat in Burrard Inlet for weeks, with its human cargo deprived of food and water by authorities who hoped toweaken their resolve.

Passengers attempted to fight the racist immigration policies keeping them from shore, but all except a handful were ultimately deported two months after their arrival.

For Jarnail Singh, the mural was an important project - one he'd thought of doing when he migrated to Canada with his family six years ago, according to the Leader newspaper.

"When I came here, I was thinking about doing a piece depicting the sacrifices and struggles of Indo-Canadian pioneers," Singh said.

The painting, to be officially unveiled at an event Friday, measures 16 feet by 18 feet and covers two levels of the six-storey Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society (PICS) building, according to the PICS website.

"After nearly 100 years of that grave injustice, the passengers of the Komagata Maru will finally get a landing status in Canada, said Charan Gill, CEO of PICS.

According to Gill, the mural will symbolise Canada's journey from being an exclusionist society to one of the most culturally diverse and tolerant societies in the world today.

PICS has been instrumental in raising awareness among Canadians about Komagata Maru and its passengers. In 1989, it organised a conference on race relations with the Komagata Maru incident as a main topic of discussion.

First Published: Nov 23, 2006 17:19 IST