Vancouver to raise Komagata Maru memorial

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Nevada (US), Dec 07: Vancouver in Canada will erect a commemorative monument to the 1914 Komagata Maru ship incident involving denial of entry to its passengers from Punjab (India) into Canada.

Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation has invited public comments on two potential sites for the monument, Harbour Green Park and Stanley Park near Brocton Oval, which have been selected due to their proximity to where the Komagata Maru was anchored.

The Park Board was approached by the Khalsa Diwan Society on the monument project, which is funded through the federal Community Historical Recognition Program which provides funding for community-based commemorative and educational projects that recognize the experiences of ethno-cultural communities affected by historical immigration policies applied in the past across Canada. After site selection, an open house will be held for comments on monument design, which is reportedly targeted for completion by March 31, 2012.

Distinguished Indo-American statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that this memorial monument plan was "a step in the right direction" although Canada should have materialized it much earlier. This 1914 incident was a dark spot on Canadian history highlighting racism, and the monument, besides showing courage of the passengers, would also remind people of the historical blunders of Canada so that such tragic incidents would not be repeated in the future, Zed added.

Rajan Zed, who is Chairperson of Indo-American Leadership Confederation, further said that it should be a high profile monument properly acknowledging the 1914 tragedy. He applauded the efforts of the Khalsa Diwan Society and other members of the community whose tireless efforts made this proposed monument possible.

Komagata Maru, arriving in Vancouver on May 23 with 376 passengers, was reportedly forced to sail back for Calcutta (India) on July 23, where on disembarking on September 27, 20 passengers were killed and many imprisoned. This Japanese steamship, hired by affluent fisherman Gurdit Singh Sandhu of Singapore, sailed from Hong Kong to Vancouver via China and Japan. Passengers, mostly Sikhs but included few Muslims and Hindus also, were not allowed to land in Canada because of exclusion laws meant to keep out immigrants of Asian origin while accepting massive immigrants from Europe.

On May 23, 2008, Legislative Assembly of British Columbia reportedly unanimously passed a resolution apologizing for the 1914 incident and on August three, 2008, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper conveyed an apology on it.

Plays, including a radio play, have been written and produced on this incident, besides an award-winning documentary film. Oscar nominated Deepa Mehta has announced a feature film about the incident with a 35 million dollars budget and Bollywood stars Akshay Kumar and Shriya Saran in the lead and Oscar winner A. R. Rahman providing the music.

There is already said to be a plaque at Vancouver's Portal Park to the incident placed by the Board in 1989 to mark its 75th anniversary.

Built as a cargo ship and launched on August 13, 1890, and wrecked on February 11, 1926, in Japan; SS Komagata Maru was said to be about 100 meter long and 3040 ton steamship.

Aaron Jasper is the Chair of Vancouver Park Board Commissioners, while Raj Hundal is one of the Commissioners. Gregor Robertson is the Mayor of Vancouver. (ANI)

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