The passengers of the Komagata Maru argued their case to be allowed entry to Canada on the basis that as British subjects, they were allowed to freely travel within the Empire.

While individual passengers may have held strong beliefs around the Independence of India from British Rule, their strategizing resistance to racist notions of "good immigrants" involved them utilizing an understanding of themselves within a colonial and imperial context. Thus, the argument that as British subject they should be treated equally was used.

With the rule of the East India Company beginning in 1757 (ending in 1858, when the British Raj began, after the 1857 Indian Rebellion), the passengers of the Komagata Maru had known their India as one where an external colonizing force was ever-present. Natural resources were exploited, 'domestic industries' efforts re-routed to serve colonial interests, and a constant subjugation of Indian populations, were part of the collective experience that led many to seek out other opportunities within the Commonwealth (or outside of it) and also to build momentum for the Independence movement. Many of the passengers on the Komagata Maru had fought in the British Indian Army, engaged in the defence and expanse of the Empire. Some passengers already had, and some would develop a connection to others in the diaspora who were interested in fighting for independence. One example is the Ghadr party - a movement initiated in Pacific coast United States - and made tangible by the migrating back to India to fight for Independence.

Considering the broader context requires us to look at the ways in which colonialism and imperialism shaped the daily reality of the passengers of the Komagata Maru, wherever they went. For those in India, they lived under British occupation. For those who journeyed from Hong Kong (occupied by the British beginning in 1841), that place, too, held the markers of colonial rule. As the ship made its journey, the Vancouver Province reported that "Boat Loads of Hindus on Way to Vancouver" highlighting the colonial tactic of (mis)naming populations of occupied territories - Indians and Hindus were synonymous in the colonial mind. Once they arrived at Vancouver, the passengers of the Komagata Maru experienced the highly regulative processes of medical examination and interrogative interview (with questionable interpretation practices).

The reality that while they were subjects of the Empire in a sense, their subjectivity was constrained as it always needed to be measured relative to those in power and those valued, i.e. white communities and white individuals.

Migration to other parts of the Empire, i.e. other colonies, was a reality for many Indians already. For the United States and Australia (other settler states) there was strict legislation including quotas to control and restrict the migration of Indians. Family reunification was not a priority in the slightest - and the gender balance remained skewed for decades, with an overrepresentation of men and boys.

On the ground in British Columbia, the Indian immigrants faced hardship due to racist exclusion and discrimination. While there were some differences in the ways that racist groups such as the Asian Exclusion League articulating their hatred for the various Asian groups (Chinese, Japanese, Indian), the reality is that all groups faced racism daily. That did not stop individuals from mobilizing and creating community spaces. For example, the Khalsa Diwan Society was founded in Vancouver in 1906, with the first gurdwara built in 1908. The Society, as well as the gurdwara served as a site for community mobilization. This was evident during the time of the Komagata Maru as community meetings were held at the gurdwara, hosting hundreds of concerned Indians and some white allies as well.