Komagata Maru: 100th Anniversary Commemorative Stamp
By A Correspondent
On May 6, Conservative MP Parm Gill unveiled a stamp commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Komagata Maru tragedy in 1914.
This stamp builds on the Prime Minister’s 2008 apology on behalf of the Government of Canada for the Komagata Maru tragedy. As part of the apology our Government also announced $2.5 million dollars in funding to build a monument, a museum, write books, plays, and websites that help commemorate and raise awareness of this tragedy in our country’s history.
“Since being elected I have been working with members of the community to find ways of commemorating this black mark in our Canadian history. I advocated the creation of this stamp to continue our Government’s efforts to commemorate this tragedy,” stated Parm Gill.
“There will be many opportunities to attend events to mark the hundredth anniversary, and I encourage all Canadians to take the time to remember those who lost their lives and the families that were affected by this tragedy,” concluded Gill.
Komgata Maru stamp is part of Canada Post's 2014 stamp program, which will demonstrate the diverse combination of achievement, progress, culture and tragedy that helps define Canada.
“These stamp collections visually narrate some of our country’s defining moments – from our darkest days to those of immense pride, the 2014 program offers us some incredible stories to remember,” says the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport and responsible for Canada Post.
“Collectively we continue to capture moments that will long live through our stamp collection. And we encourage everyone to take note of these stories as they truly mark who we are as Canadians,” says Deepak Chopra, President and CEO of Canada Post.
Vancouver’s Komagata Maru Heritage Foundation has worked toward better educating the public on the injustices faced by their friends and family members nearly 100 years ago.
According to foundation president, Harb Gill, “It’s a good achievement for the community. It’s a good way of actually teaching our future generations.”
"Our foundation had approached Canada Post in 2012, following which the latter had approved the issuance of a stamp in 2014 to mark 100 years of the incident," said Vancouver-based Amrik Singh, member, Komagata Maru Heritage Foundation, Canada.
Harjit Singh, a resident of Surrey in British Columbia, Canada, said the Indian and Punjab governments too need to commemorate the centenary of the incident.
"Punjab government has miserably failed in commemorating the centenary of Ghadar despite the fact that many Punjabis had made sacrifices in the movement. It seems to have no plans for the centenary of Komagata Maru incident as well. The government needs to take note of landmark events in the history of Indian struggle for freedom," said Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Committee member Amolak Singh.
Komagata Maru Tragedy
The Komagata Maru was a Japanese steamship chartered by a Sikh entrepreneur, Baba Gurdit Singh to bring 376 hopeful Punjabi immigrants to Canada in 1914. The Indians were denied entry by Canada’s exclusion law, known as ‘the Continuous Journey Act’. Only 20 passengers, who had been in Canada, were considered as returning residents and allowed to land.
The ship was docked in Vancouver’s harbour for more than two months in the summer of 1914 and is now known as one of the most infamous events in the early history of the city.
The Indians were not allowed to disembark and the ship was sent back on July 23, 1914. On reaching India, the British government ordered firing on passengers as the ship anchored at Budge Budge port near Kolkata.