Innovation & Arts

An Open Letter on the Apology for the Komagata Maru Incident

 https://www.emaze.com/@ALFWOCOF/S.S.-Komagata-Maru.
 

An open letter to the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau.

What is the legacy of the Komagata Maru?

We, scholars of the languages, histories, cultures, and religions of South Asia, write as a group in recognition of the significance of the Canadian government’s apology for the Komagata Maru incident that will take place in Parliament by the Prime Minister on May 18, 2016. The Komagata Maru was a ship bearing 376 migrants from British India, most of whom were disallowed from entering Canada in 1914 as a part of a larger move against Asian immigration to Canada in that period. The centenary of this incident was commemorated in 2014 with a range of events across Canada, and particularly in British Columbia, with the participation of a wide range of activists, scholars, artists, and members of the public. This apology has been long awaited, and represents a valuable demonstration of the acceptance of responsibility and admission of contrition.

What next? There are many possible legacies for the Komagata Maru incident. Its story relates to many pressing current social problems: the need for equitable, transparent, and just immigration policies and procedures, and a generous response to the urgent needs of refugees. The Komagata Maru resonates with our world in all of these domains. We, as scholars, call on the Canadian government to act in the memory of the Komagata Maru also by embracing Canada’s long and complex relationship with South Asia, and the vibrant and relatively little known history of South Asian Canadians. We hope that recognition of the injustice associated with the Komagata Maru incident will result in support for the deepening of knowledge about South Asia in Canada, and exploration of the contributions, experiences, and histories of South Asian Canadians. Such work must reach beyond the directly monetizable aspects of the Canada-South Asia relationship to embrace the worlds of history, literature, and culture that bind us, and through which we can build a new kind of future.

Let the Komagata Maru, which arrived in Canadian waters a little more than 102 years ago, remind us of the importance of history and its connection to the present, and the importance of the expression of that past in literature, scholarship, and the arts. Enable real engagement with South Asia by supporting, among other things, student research and travel in South Asia, community-based research in Canada, and less-commonly taught and low enrolment languages. If we support them in doing so, our students will carry forward the legacy of the Komagata Maru in a way that honours the past, and creates a more equitable and infinitely richer future.

Quel est l’héritage laissé par le Komagata Maru?

Nous, professeur.e.s et chercheur.e.s de l’histoire, des cultures, des langues et des religions de l’Asie du Sud, sommes réuni.e.s en reconnaissance de l’importance des excuses officielles du gouvernement canadien qui seront présentées le 18 mai 2016 par le premier ministre pour l’incident du Komagata Maru. Le Komagata Maru était un paquebot transportant 376 migrants en provenance de l’Inde britannique dont la plupart se sont vu refuser l’entrée au Canada en 1914, dans le cadre d’un mouvement plus large contre l’immigration au Canada qui avait cours à cette époque. Le centenaire de cet incident a été commémoré en 2014, avec la tenue d’un large éventail d’événements à travers le Canada, et plus particulièrement en Colombie-Britannique, comptant la participation d’un grand nombre d’activistes, de professeur.e.s et chercheur.e.s, d’artistes et de membres du public. Ces excuses officielles sont attendues depuis longtemps et démontrent une importante prise de responsabilités et reconnaissance des torts du gouvernement canadien.

Que pouvons-nous nous attendre pour la suite? L’incident du Komagata Maru peut laisser place à plusieurs legs. Son histoire est liée à plusieurs problèmes sociaux d’actualité pressants comme la nécessité de mettre en place des politiques et procédures justes, équitables et transparentes en matière d’immigration et de répondre généreusement aux besoins urgents des réfugié.e.s. Le Komagata Maru trouve écho dans toutes ces sphères de notre monde. En tant que professeur.e.s et chercheur.e.s, nous faisons appel au gouvernement du Canada pour qu’il agisse en mémoire du Komagata Maru en embrassant la longue et complexe relation que le Canada a entretenu avec l’Asie du Sud depuis longtemps et avec l’histoire vibrante et relativement peu connue des canadien.ne.s d’origine sud-asiatique. Nous espérons que la reconnaissance de l’injustice associée au Komagata Maru donnera lieu à un plus grand support pour l’approfondissement de la connaissance de l’Asie du Sud au Canada et à une plus grande exploration des contributions, expériences et histoires des canadien.ne.s d’origine sud-asiatique. La portée d’un tel travail doit dépasser les aspects strictement économiques qui caractérisent en partie la relation entre le Canada et l’Asie du Sud pour embrasser les mondes de l’histoire, la littérature et la culture qui nous lient et à travers lesquels nous pouvons bâtir un nouveau futur.

Il importe de laisser le Komagata Maru, qui est arrivé dans les eaux canadiennes il y a un peu plus de 102 ans, nous rappeler l’importance de l’histoire et de son rapport avec le présent et aussi l’importance de l’expression de ce passé dans la littérature, la recherche scientifique et les arts. Il est impératif de favoriser un engagement réel avec l’Asie du Sud, en supportant, entre autres, les étudiant.e.s à faire de la recherche et des voyages en Asie du Sud, en encourageant la recherche communautaire et l’enseignement des langues peu communément enseignées au Canada dans des classes aux effectifs peu élevés. Si nous supportons nos étudiant.e.s à avancer dans ce sens, elles et ils préserveront l’héritage du Komagata Maru de façon à faire honneur au passé et à créer un futur plus équitable et infiniment plus riche.

Signed by:

Satwinder Bains, Director, Centre for Indo Canadian Studies & UFV India, & Associate Professor Social Cultural and Media Studies – Indo Canadian Studies, University of the Fraser Valley

Karine Bates, Professeure agrégée, Département d’anthropologie & Directrice du PRIAS/Pôle de recherche sur l’Inde et l’Asie du Sud, Université de Montréal

Rachel Berger, Associate Professor, History Department, Concordia University

Mathieu Boisvert, Director of Graduate Programs in Religion; Director, Centre d’études et de recherche sur l’Inde, l’Asie du Sud et sa diaspora, Université du Québec à Montréal

Mandakranta Bose, Professor Emerita at the Institute of Asian Research and Director of the Institute’s Centre for India and South Asia Research, University of British Columbia

Barbra Clayton, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Mount Allison University

Francis Cody, Associate Professor, Anthropology and Asian Institute, University of Toronto

André Couture, Professeur associé, Faculté de théologie et de sciences religieuses, Université Laval

Neil Dalal, Associate Professor, Philosophy and Religious Studies, University of Alberta

Arti Dhand, Department for the Study of Religion, Associate Professor, University of Toronto

Diana Dimitrova, Professeure agrégée, Faculté de théologie et de sciences des religions, Université de Montréal

Pat Dold, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, and Head of Gender Studies, Memorial University

Jonathan Geen, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, King’s University College @Western University

Ellen Goldberg, Associate Professor of South Asian Religions, School of Religion, Queen’s University

Michael Hawley, Associate Professor, Religious Studies, Mount Royal University

Sukhwant Hundal, Lecturer in Punjabi, Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia

Tom Hunter, Lecturer in South-Southeast Asian Studies, Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia

Ranbir Johal, Faculty, Department of Language and Cultures, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Prashant Keshavmurthy, Assistant Professor of Persian-Iranian Studies, Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University

Pasha Khan, Chair in Urdu Language and Culture & Assistant Professor, Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University

John Leavitt, Professeur titulaire, Département d’anthropologie, Université de Montréal

Richard Mann, Associate Professor and Associate Dean (Curriculum, Programs & Planning), Carleton University

Libbie Mills, Lecturer, Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto

Nicola Mooney, Associate Professor, Anthropology, Department of Social, Cultural, and Media Studies and Senior Associate, Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies, University of the Fraser Valley

Anne Murphy, Associate Professor, Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia

Vrinda Narain, Faculty of Law and the Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies (IGSF), McGill University

Kamala Elizabeth Nayar, Professor of Asian Studies, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Jason Neelis, Associate Professor, Religion and Culture, Wilfred Laurier University

Ishita Pande, Associate Professor, Department of History, Queen’s University

Andrea Marion Pinkney, Assistant Professor, School of Religious Studies, McGill University

Bhavani Raman, Associate Professor, University of Toronto

Shyam Ranganathan, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy and Department of Social Sciences, South Asian Studies, York University

Ajay Rao, Associate Professor, Department of Historical Studies and Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto

Hillary Peter Rodrigues, Professor, Department of Religious Studies, The University of Lethbridge

Elizabeth Rohlman, Associate Professor in the Department of Classics and Religion, University of Calgary

Karen Ruffle, Associate Professor, Department of Historical Studies/Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto

Adheesh Sathaye, Associate Professor, Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia

Sara Shneiderman, Assistant Professor, Anthropology and the Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia

Milan Singh, Research Fellow with the Centre for Policy Studies on Culture and Communities, Simon Fraser University

Mark Turin, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia

Anne Vallely, Associate Professor, Department of Classics and Religious Studies, University of Ottawa

Dominik Wujastyk, Professor and Singhmar Chair, Department of History and Classics, University of Alberta

Thank you to Julie Vig, Ph.D. Candidate, UBC, for the translation of this letter into French.