Several strict immigration policies were adopted on racially discriminatory lines to curb the flow of Indian immigrants in the early 20th century, who were coming to Canada seeking work. One incident which is related to this is the Komagata Maru.
Komagata Maru incident
- Komagata Maru was a Japanese steamship that sailed from Hong Kong to Vancouver, Canada via Japan in May, 1914. It was carrying 376 passengers who were immigrants from Punjab, India. Of these, only 24 were granted admittance in Canada when the ship docked in Vancouver. At that time, Canada had laws restricting entry of migrants of Asian origin. Following a two month stalemate, the ship and its 352 passengers were escorted out of the dock by the Canadian military and forced to sail back to India.
- Adding further insult to the injury, some of the passengers were killed in protests on their return to India, when they were prevented from docking and attempts were made to arrest its leaders who were suspected by the colonial government to be political agitators.
Significance of the movement
- The Komagata Maru episode attracted worldwide attention and condemnation for the violation of human rights and racism.
- This was one of several incidents in the early 20th century in which exclusion laws in Canada and the United States were used to exclude immigrants of Asian origin
- The episode further inspired the Ghadar party to engage in its struggle against the colonial rule and therefore it indirectly gave a fillip to the Indian struggle for freedom.
- Further, the inflamed passions in the wake of the incident were widely cultivated by the Indian revolutionary organisation, the Ghadar Party, to rally support for its aims.
- In a number of meetings ranging from California in 1914 to the Indian diaspora, prominent Ghadarites including Barkatullah, Tarak Nath Das, and Sohan Singh used the incident as a rallying point to recruit members for the Ghadar movement, most notably in support of promulgating plans to coordinate a massive uprising in India.
- The episode also reminds Indians of the role played by those who lived away from the country but kept struggling for the Independence of the country.
- It is widely cited at the time by Indian groups to highlight discrepancies in Canadian immigration laws.
- After the ship reached India , the Sikhs were treated as law breakers and were detailed which further led to resentment and anger in the Indian community
- The Ghadarites efforts failed due to lack of support from the general population
- Could not impact the colonial structure as well.
- The legacy of this movement is never forgotten .The recent apology made by Canada to India regarding the incident shows the importance of this movement.