He has spent close to 30 years writing books on the Japanese ship Komagata Maru while trying to get justice for his grandfather Dhyan Singh and 375 others. But when his fight for justice seemed to bear fruit, he is not overjoyed.
Jasminder Singh Ghuman, who is now in his 70s, and handles the work of the Komagata Maru Society based in India and Canada, feels that though the apology from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is “pacifying and welcome” but “complete justice is yet to be done”.
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“We accept the apology of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the injustice meted out to 376 Indians who knocked Canada’s door for better living and employment. Not only they were banned from entering Canada, they were also subjected to atrocities and violence,” said Ghuman.
Narrating his fight for justice for the 376 passengers who were on board the vessel in 1914, Ghuman said, “We are in touch with relatives of some of the 376 passengers who were on board the Komagata Maru, which was led by Baba Gurditt Singh from Tarn Taran. His daughter-in-law Balbir Kaur, settled in Canada, is in touch with us. But it is our plea to relatives of others to touch base with us. We are trying to get them justice and their money , which is lying with the Canadian government.”
The ship, which reached the Canadian shores on May 23, 1914 with 376 passengers including 340 Sikhs, 12 Hindus and 24 Muslims, was not allowed to enter the Canadian port. Trudeau while apologising accepted that this was due to “discriminatory laws of that time”. Despite being a British colony, Canada did not allow Indians to disembark and demanded a huge sum of money as security.
“Even after paying, Canada refused to allow them to disembark. The ship was sent back to Calcutta via Japan where clashes with British soldiers killed 19. We want the Canadian government to release the security money with interest. For this to happen, the two government’s need to talk for which families should come forward in support,” said Ghuman. Ghuman’s grandfather was one of the passengers who suffered injuries in the Calcutta firing. He was later imprisoned.