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Gian S Kotli


The entire Indo-Canadian community now seems to be bent upon pressing the Canadian government to apologize from the Indo-Canadian community for the Komagata Maru episode of injustice and racial discrimination. Extensive coverage in the media, particularly the Indo-Canadian media, has made it sufficiently clear that the unfortunate passengers of Komagata Maru ship had to suffer extreme hardships due to the exclusionary racist policy of the Canadian government. The passengers were British subjects who came here in the hope of a better future and should not have been deported back under such humiliating and inhuman conditions. Being British subjects they were entitled to enter into Canada. It was due to the racist and discriminatory policy of the government that these unfortunate passengers were deported to India, where they had to face even more hardships, some of them being shot at and killed when they landed at the Budge Budge Port, 17 miles from Calcutta.

It is to be appreciated that the Indo-Canadian community is only looking for an apology and a proper memorial at the site where the Komagata Maru ship tried to land in the Burrard Inlet Sea near Stanley Park. The Komagata Memorial plaque, which was installed in the Portal Park, does not seem to be a befitting tribute to such a significant episode of history.

I also deem it relevant to tell the readers about the location of the memorial plaque, as it has been quite puzzling for many to find out its present location without having its exact address. Even those who had visited this place earlier could not guide me properly.

The memorial plaque in the Portal Park at 1099 West Hastings Street was installed in 1989 on the 75th anniversary of Komagata. To the west of this beautifully designed tiny Park is Thurlow Street and to the north is West Cordova Street. But no signboard of Portal Park is to be seen anywhere which makes it difficult to locate. The bronze rectangular plaque is fixed amid plants and flowers on the ground. It was quite disgusting to watch some human waste and soiled tatters in front of this historical plaque. Some other plaques are also there. Parking is available on all roads. Waterfront and Burrard SkyTrain stations are very near. You can also catch Bus No. 19 for visiting Stanley Park and Portal Park.

The memorial plaque carries the following inscription:

Komagata Maru 75th Anniversary.

On May 23, 1914, 376 British subjects, 12 Hindus, 24 Muslims and 340 Sikhs of Indian origin arrived in Vancouver Harbor aboard the Komagata Maru, seeking to enter Canada, 352 of them were denied entry and forced to depart on July 23, 1914. This Plaque commemorates the 75th anniversary of that unfortunate incident of racial discrimination, and reminds Canadians of our commitment to open society in which mutual respect and understanding are honored, differences are respected and traditions are cherished.

Jasvir Sandhu and Sahib Thind told me that like the previous year, Professor Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation of Canada is celebrating the 93rd anniversary of Komagata Maru at 10 a.m. on May 20 at Lumberman's Arch, Stanley Park, and it will also be celebrating the anniversary in July at Bear Creek Park in Surrey to draw the attention of the Canadian government towards providing a glorious ending to the most racist chapter in Canadian history.

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