August 03, 2014

ICWA Observes Komagatamaru Centenary

Joga Randhawa

THE CPI(M), which derives inspiration from the Ghadar Movement and its heroic fighters, passed a resolution in its 20th Congress held from April 4-9, 2012 in Kozhikode, Kerala to observe the centenary of the movement. “This Party congress recalls with pride and salutes the memory of the 200 martyrs who were killed and 35 who were sent to the Andaman Cellular Jail for life. Their fearless example raised hopes of overcoming imperialism at its most savage. The movement extended from Vancouver in Canada to San Francisco, and the villages of Punjab... They dared to storm the bastions of imperialism in their day and their memory should inspire us to carry forward that struggle to victory over imperialism in our time.” In the above context the Indo-Canadian Workers’ Association (ICWA) of Canada organised a seminar on July 26 at the Newton Public Arena in Surrey to commemorate the centenary of Komagatamaru event. CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury was the main speaker of the event. Several others including the Counsel General of India to Canada and Canadian MP Jinny Sims addressed the gathering. The seminar was well attended, and moderated by Surinder Dhesi. Representatives from ICWA Calgary Branch, Indian Education and Cultural Organization of Yuba City, the USA participated in the seminar and other related events. Messages of greetings were sent by the Indian Workers Association of Great Britain, Ghadar Memorial Foundation of America, Sacramento, the USA, ICWA Toronto Branch, ICWA Edmonton, Indo American Heritage, Fresno, Indo American Cultural and Sports Association of California, Sports Club of Solano Country Bay and many others. Sitaram Yechury spoke in detail about the history of Komagatamaru and consequential events that followed after the ship returned to Calcutta. He noted that despite its immense importance, there still remains a deliberate hesitation to link the Komagatamaru experience to the larger Ghadar Movement, of which this journey was an integral and inseparable part. Yechury continued that 100 years have passed since the Komagatamaru event, but the inspiration it provided prompted the people from different parts of India to make sacrifices to contribute to the freedom struggle irrespective of caste and religion, and today one has to be vigilant against the forces which still try to divide the people on the basis of religion in India and, internationally, discrimination on the basis of origin. On behalf of ICWA, Sangha spoke about the role of the present Canadian government in barring the entry of immigrants in different ways, similarly what the then government did for Komagatamaru. He cautioned the people against the anti-immigrant policies of the present government, and asked them to raise their voice against it and be vigilant about their rights which are being curtailed by the Conservative government. Yechury unveiled a painting of Sheetal Anmol on Komagatamaru and released a souvenir consisting of articles in English and Punjabi, apart from fraternal messages. A petition was submitted by MP Jinny Sims to the government of Canada over the current tougher immigration policies being pursued by it. Addressing the event, Counsel General of India congratulated ICWA for organising the centenary celebration of Komagatamaru and asked the younger generation to participate more in community events to know about our past. Among others, Raghvir Kaur from Desh Bhagat Yadgar Committee of Punjab spoke at the event. On July 27, a day after the seminar, a public meeting was held in the city’s Millennium Park. A large number of people attended the meeting despite hot temperature of 30 degrees Celsius, and according to the police estimate, the crowd was 20,000 strong. There was a festive atmosphere at the park with activities like children’s entertainment, Ghadarites exhibition, book stalls and food courts. A large number of people from the main land community also attended the mela. Kulwant Dhesi organised the stage and started with introduction of Indo Canadian Worker Association’s team at the stage. The main speakers were Sitaram Yechury, Raghvir Kaur, Jinny Sims, MP, and Nina Grewal. Besides them, there were Gurmant Grewal ex MP, Dough McCullant, ex mayor of Surrey, Parmjit Gandhri, Surinder Dhesi, Surinder Sangha, Pinder Badesh and Joga Randhawa. Political segment of the mela started at 3 pm and ended at 8 pm. At the public meet, Yechury gave an overview of Indian politics and Komagatamaru’s relevance in today’s context and wished the people to continue progress and success for themselves and for Canada, “but at the same time put your efforts to make a better ‘Bharat’ back home”. “We are committed to continue working for it and ask people to contribute to make a better India and a better society in India.” Yechury concluded that these commemorative events in Vancouver, Canada will immensely contribute in the struggle to ensure that the Ghadar Movement and the Komagatamaru journey are given its pride of place in India’s freedom struggle. Yechury, Police chief of Surrey, Kulwant Dhesi and Raghvir Kuar were presented plaques in honour from the ICWA. The local audio media gave wide coverage to the event.