14 Pages

Introduction: The journey of the Komagata Maru: national, transnational, diasporic

WithAnjali Gera Roy, Ajaya K. Sahoo

More than a hundred years ago, a Japanese ship called Komagata Maru chartered by Gurdit Singh, a prosperous entrepreneur based in Singapore, carrying 376 Punjabi passengers - largely Sikhs but also some Hindus and Muslims - from Hong Kong was not permitted to land in Vancouver on grounds of a stipulation about a continuous journey from the port of departure and forced to return to Budge Budge near Kolkata where the passengers were fired at, detained or kept under surveillance for years. The Komagata Maru has become the site for the contestation over discriminatory policies regulating South Asian migrations to Canada. While the passengers perceived it as a violent instance of the suppression of the freedom and rights of the loyal subjects of the British Empire, the colonial administration justified its action alleging that seditious activities were being carried out on the chartered ship. The resurrection of the Komagata Maru's tragic journey in Canadian and Indian national memories foregrounds a number of key contemporary debates related to memory and history; imperialism and resistance; racism, exclusion and inclusion; nation and citizenship; mobilities and immobilities; and emigration and diasporas.