On May 23, 1914, a ship filled with Indians/South Asians looking for a new life abroad landed in the Vancouver harbour. They weren’t allowed to disembark and instead, after 2 months, they were sent back to the motherland.

komagata maru

100 years ago today, on July 23, 1914, the ship of would-be immigrants turned around for the return journey to India, where upon their arrival in Budge Budge (close to Kolkata), many were shot and killed while others faced imprisonment by the occupying British.

Today we remember this sad episode in Canadian and world history, when racial discrimination and ideas of ethnic purity reigned supreme. It’s also a reminder that this same kind of discrimination exists today, whether racial, gendered, social, or economic. The 2012 attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek and attacks on mosques and mandirs across North America, as well as ongoing racial profiling for all people of colour means that we all have work to do to push for change, educate, and insist that there be a dialogue shift by decision makers. The Komagata Maru has a legacy in us today.

 

Learn more about early South Asian immigrants in Vancouver and the Komagata Maru in our special series “Komagata Maru: We Remember,” featuring rarely seen photographs, videos and stories.

Komagata Maru