Komagata Maru incident to be commemorated in name of Vancouver street | World News - Hindustan Times
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Komagata Maru incident to be commemorated in name of Vancouver street

May 25, 2023 02:29 PM IST

A prominent street in downtown Vancouver is likely to be accord the honorary name of Komagata Maru Way to commemorate the incident in 1914 when the Japanese steamship of that name carrying 376 passengers from India was escorted away from city in British Columbia due to discriminatory laws that were then in place in Canada.

A prominent street in downtown Vancouver is likely to be accord the honorary name of Komagata Maru Way to commemorate the incident in 1914 when the Japanese steamship of that name carrying 376 passengers from India was escorted away from city in British Columbia due to discriminatory laws that were then in place in Canada.

A historic photograph from 1914 of passengers from India aboard the ship Komagata Maru. (City of Vancouver Archives)
A historic photograph from 1914 of passengers from India aboard the ship Komagata Maru. (City of Vancouver Archives)

Vancouver’s Canada Place is a significant two-block section of the city. Vancouver’s city council is expected to give it a secondary name of Komagata Maru Way later this month. According to the outlet Vancouver Sun, a report from the council staff said that the location will “offer residents and tourists arriving to Vancouver on foot, transit and by ship an opportunity to reflect as they learn more about this historic incident from the secondary name signage.”

Raj Singh Toor, descendant of one of the passengers on the ship, was pleased that the naming will become reality soon. “I gave this request five years ago to the city of Vancouver,” he said. The location was important as it was on the waterfront and those walking along the street can see where the ship was detained over 100 years back. Toor’s grandfather Baba Puran Singh Janetpura was the only student aboard the ship.

Similar recognition has been accorded elsewhere as well in recent years.

In July 2019, a street in the town of Surrey in the Metro Vancouver region was formally assigned the name of Komagata Maru Way. In June that year, a Komagata Maru Park was inaugurated in the town of Brampton in the Greater Toronto Area.

Earlier this year, the town of Abbotsford, also in the Metro Vancouver area, decided on a commemorative renaming of a portion of a highway. Toor said the formal signage will be installed there this summer.

In 2016, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had formally apologised on behalf of the nation in the House of Commons, for the discriminatory event that led to the turning back of the vessel from Vancouver Harbour. A permanent memorial marking the episode exists in Vancouver.

In 1914, The Japanese ship arrived near Vancouver harbour on May 23, and its passengers were mostly Sikhs from India, many seeking to immigrate to Canada, though it was also a political act as some among those returned to India to fight for Independence. However, immigration authorities refused to allow the majority to come ashore, citing the discriminatory Continuous Passage Regulation, a law that mandated that immigrants arrive in Canada directly from the home country. For those from India, that was logistically impossible. The racist legislation was meant to be exclusionary. The passengers had a standoff with the authorities, at times the angry passengers confronted them. Part of the reason for the action against those aboard the ship was that the British empire also considered some of the passengers to be linked to the revolutionary Ghadar movement. On July 23, two months after the arrival of the ship, the resistance was overcome and the ship was escorted away from Vancouver and back to India. On its arrival, British police boarded the vessel and attempted to arrest the leaders of the passengers who they considered to be insurgents. In the resultant riot, 19 passengers were killed and over 200 arrested.

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