Upcoming exhibit commemorates Komagata Maru tragedy

It has been 100 years since immigrants from India were prohibited from disembarking at Vancouver harbour.

Immigrants from India waiting to disembark at Vancouver harbour in 1914.

Immigrants from India waiting to disembark at Vancouver harbour in 1914.

On May 23, 1914, Canadian immigration officials refused to allow 376 immigrants from the Punjab to disembark their ship Komagata Maru at Vancouver harbour. Passengers were eventually forced to return to India, where 20 were killed in a riot.

The Sikh Heritage Museum in Abbotsford is holding a year-long exhibition to commemorate the event under the title, “Challenge and Denial – Komagata Maru 100 Years Later, 1914-2014.”

The exhibition will be split into two parts. The first will feature a physical timeline that highlights some key moments in the South Asian migration to B.C. and Canada, with a detailed account of the Komagata Maru tragedy. The second will feature interpretive paintings of the event by B.C. artist Jarnail Singh.

“Seeing as this year is the centennial year (1914-2014) of the incident, we thought it would be fitting to devote this entire year to Komagata Maru,” said Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra, coordinator at the Centre for Indo Canadian Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley. The centre curated the exhibition.

The Sikh Heritage Museum, located at the historic Gur Sikh Temple, has been running two exhibits per year since its inception in 2011. This is its sixth official exhibition and the first on Komagata Maru.

The Komagata Maru exhibit will be on display from Jan. 26, 2014 until Jan. 2015 at the Gur Sikh Temple (33094 S Fraser Way) in Abbotsford.

The official launch is on Sunday, Jan. 26 at 1–3 p.m. There will be a speech from one of the descendants of the shore committee members, as well as a reading from Chanting Denied Shoresby author Tariq Malik.