After nearly 100 years of the painful incident in the history of Sikh community, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has formally apologised in the House of Commons, for the Komagata Maru incident in 1914, in which hundreds of Sikh and Hindu migrants were denied entry to Canada and forced to return to an uncertain and ultimately violent fate in India.
In 1914, the Komagata Maru incident happened in which the Canadian government turned away around 376 immigrants from Punjab who sailed from India after quarantining the ship off Vancouver. After two months the ship was escorted out by gunships and sent back to Calcutta, where clashes with British soldiers killed 19 and ended in prison sentences for the others.
Komagata Maru was a ship hired by Gurdit Singh, a Hong Kong/Singapore-based Sikh businessman, a follower of the Ghadar Party, who wanted to bypass Canadian laws of immigration.
376 Indians, 340 of them Sikhs travelled from Hong Kong to Vancouver in pursuit of better life. Upon their return they were arrested and British colonial officials planned to send them back home to the Punjab. Some refused to go, and 20 were killed when police opened fire on a demonstration.
“We want to live up to our own values”, said the Canadian PM. The Canadian PM Trudeau also said as a nation Canada should never forget the prejudice suffered by the Indian community. “The passengers of Komagata Maru, like millions of immigrants since, were seeking refuge and better lives for their families,” Trudeau said, adding "Canada does not bear alone the responsibility for every tragic mistake that occurred with the Komagata Maru and its passengers, but Canada's government was without question responsible for the laws that prevented these passengers from immigrating peacefully and securely, for that, and for every regrettable consequence that followed, we, are, sorry”.
The prime minister said Canada must now commit itself to positive action, to learning from mistakes and to make sure that we never repeat the errors of the past. The Indian community in Canada and internationally has lauded the Canadian PM Trudeau's apology on the unfortunate Komagata Maru incident.