Examining the Komagata Maru incident and reflecting on its implications requires a set of conversations about identities within the context of a nation (Canada/India).
For Komagata Maru passengers, British rule in India resulted in a complicated “national” identity - so, they made the argument that as British subjects, they should be able to move freely within the Empire. For the white residents of British Columbia, and for those in power, this was simply not the case – the identities of the “Hindoos” were undesirable and needed to be excluded. For members of the Shore Committee, their own identities allowed space for solidarity with the Komagata Maru passengers, and their experiences of being in British Columbia required them to take action.
The backdrop for the Komagata Maru incident is colonialism. One of the many consequences of colonial rule is a shifting in the way we understand ourselves because we are named different, we are named other, and sometimes our names are erased. One tactic of resistance is to name ourselves, to name the places we are, using our own words, and to remember.
It is important to consider the complications of colonialism as a backdrop. If we begin from (and stay in) a place of Indigenous solidarity, we must discuss the issue of settlership. This land, the place we now call Canada, is colonized land. Indigenous communities whose traditional lands are within what we now call the Coast Salish Territories experience daily the impact of colonialism. The migration stories of South Asian individuals must be heard in conjunction with the stories of Indigenous peoples in Canada. The thread of colonization and the strength in resistance can bind marginalized communities – in particular, South Asians can remember the Komagata Maru more deeply if we consider that the entitlement to “regulate” land (and who can own land) have happened at the cost of Indigenous communities. Just as we hope to bring to light the stories of our communities, like the tragedy of the Komagata Maru, we must be committed to bringing to light the gaps in the stories we have been told, about this place we now call Canada.
In this section, the complications of South Asian identities will be explored – bringing the conversation from the historical moment of the Komagata Maru, through to the contemporary. Specifically, this section includes discussion of:
- The idea of a "British subject"
- Anti-Asian sentiment in British Columbia and Canada
- The shift to a rhetoric of Multiculturalism in the 20th century
- The idea of a "Visible minority"