CANADIAN PRIME Minister Justin Trudeau has turned the spotlight on the Komagata Maru incident, by offering a full apology in the House of Commons next month, but many at Sarhali Kalan village are unaware of their important connection to the infamous episode.
The village, located in the border district of Tara Taran, is the birthplace of the man at the heart of the incident — Baba Gurditt Singh. An affluent businessman, Gurditt had hired the Japanese steamliner, Komagata Maru, to transport Indian immigrants from Punjab to Canada.
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Jagtar Singh, a young college-going student from the village, says he has no clue of the incident but adds that he was never told of it and nor saw any inscription in the village describing its connection to the episode. Many other villagers too were not aware of Baba Gurditt Singh.
His family, however, hailed the Canadian Prime Minister’s decision.
“We are very happy that at last the Canadian government has apologised for their act. Baba Gurditt wanted to see the nation progress and that is why he took so many Punjabis there,” said Sarabjit Kaur, a distant relative of Gurditt Singh.
Sarabjit and her husband Nirvail Singh look after the house buily by Gurditt in Sarhali Kalan village. The sprawling house also has an anganwari centre now. She also said that as per his wishes, Gurditt was cremated in the premises of village gurdwara.
“Many writers used to come to our village to write about him but a majority of the villagers are not aware of his actions,” said Sarabjit Kaur.
Gurjeet Kaur, the great grand daughter-in-law of Gurditt Singh, though said the apology didn’t matter much now. She lives in Chandigarh with her children and says she stopped visiting the village after her husband’s death in 2014.
She further said that the Punjab government should acknowledge his contribution and build a memorial for him.
Sarhali village sarpanch Shabeg Singh said that while there was no memorial honouring Gurditt, an ITI college in the village is named after him. Shabeg also proposed to name the village hospital after Gurditt.