A Malaysian historian has released a book on the 1914 Komagata Maru incident in which 376 Indian immigrants were denied entry into Canada and forced to return to India to a tragic death for many of them.
The incident saw the Canadian prime minister issuing a formal apology in 2016 describing it as a ‘great injustice’.
The ship, called Komagata Maru, was chartered in Hong Kong by Gurdit Singh, a long time resident of Malaya.
The Komagata Maru Affair by Dr Ranjit Singh Malhi was launched by Mridul Kumar, the Indian high commissioner to Malaysia, on 24 July 2018.
Ranjit, who runs a management consultancy, completed his PhD in 2015 on the history of Sikhs in Malaya, titled ‘From loyal British subjects to ardent revolutionaries anti-british political activities of the Sikh in Malaya 1914-1945’.
In May 2016, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau formally apologised in the House of Commons for the Komagata Maru incident in 1914, in which hundreds of Sikh, Muslim and Hindu passengers were denied entry to Canada and forced to return to an uncertain and ultimately violent fate in India.
“More than a century ago, a great injustice took place. On May 23, 1914, a steamship sailed into Burrard Inlet in Vancouver. On board were 376 passengers of Sikh, Muslim and Hindu origin.
“Those passengers, like millions of immigrants to Canada since, came seeking better lives for their families. Greater opportunities. A chance to contribute to their new home. Those passengers chose Canada. And when they arrived here, they were rejected,” he said in the apology.
He singled out Sikh defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan for working hard to bring the incident to national attention.
Before entering politics, Harjit was the commanding officer of the British Columbia Regiment Duke of Connaught’s Own, the regiment that forced the British Komagata Maru out of Canada in 1914.