Long before the border walls between Mexico and the USA or the European Migration Crisis something terrible had happened right in our own country and to make it more specific it happened in Bengal under the British Raj.
A group of Sikh passengers on board a ship named Komagata Maru was barred from entering Canada where they wanted to immigrate and when refused they came back to India at Calcutta and wanted to get off there. The British government thought this could destabilize the current social-political situation and wanted them forcefully to be sent back to Punjab against the wish of the passengers. What followed was a blood-soaked saga that still brings shivers if you think about the atrocity.
While returning from Achipur after celebrating Chinese New Year at the Achipur Chinese Temple I and my friend Shoail decided to take a detour to check out the Komagata Maru Memorial in Budge Budge. I had first heard about this memorial from a lecture by Ram Rahaman where he talked about some of the masterpieces of architectural achievements of his father Habib Rahman. Incidentally, his father had worked in Kolkata for many years and created some significant buildings such as Gandhi Ghat in Barrackpore, the new secretariat building located next to Calcutta High Court, and of course Komagata Maru Memorial in Budge Budge.
Short Chronology of Komagata Maru Massacre
A group of men in Hong Kong decided to rent a ship and take passengers which consisted of predominantly Sikh men to Canada for immigration and further settling out there. Canada however was not ready to welcome Indian immigrants and was very hostile towards them. They welcomed Chinese immigrants easily but somehow did not show the same attitude towards Indians.
Baba Gurdit Singh chartered a ship named Komagata Maru in 1914 and sold tickets to others willing to go to Canada as immigrants. The authorities in Hong Kong arrested him as both Hong Kong and Canada were territories of Britain and they were trying all the tricks in their books to stop Indians to immigrate to Canada. 24 March 1914 – Baba Gurdit Singh was released on bail in Hong Kong.
04 April 1914 – Komagata Maru leaves Hong Kong with 150 Passengers.
08 April 1914 – 111 immigrants picked up from Shanghai on board Komagata Maru.
14 April 1914 – 86 immigrants picked up from Moji. 14 immigrants picked up from Yokohama.
03 May 1914 – Komagata Maru leaves Yokohama for Canada.
23 May 1914 – Komagata Maru arrives in Vancouver – Canada with 352 passengers. Only 21 returning residents of Canada were allowed to deboard the ship along with the family of the ship doctor.
23 July 1914 – Ship escorted out of Canada and was forced to sail back to India.
26 September 1914 – Ships reaches Calcutta
29 September 1914 – Komagata Maru Massacre at Budge Budge
The passengers of the ship wanted to reach Calcutta directly after their long voyage on sea. The passengers were tired and just wanted to get off the ship instead they were held captive at Budge Budge. Baba Gurdit Singh started negotiating with the British authorities to let them get off the ship so that they can place back the Guru Granth Sahib at a Gurudwara in Calcutta.
The British authorities wanted the passengers back on board the ship at Budge Budge so that the ship would be led back to Punjab instead. The passengers led by Baba Gurdit Singh refused and in return were attacked by a policeman with batons.
What followed were horrific confrontation and firing of live weapons on the passengers of the ships resulting in numerous deaths. Men murdered on their soil of birth while trying to reach their own homes.
How To Reach Komagata Maru Memorial
When you reach Budge Budge you can approach this monument from three different directions. The shortest and easiest route is quite problematic since I don’t consider it as a road but a passage through the lunar surface. Due to the constant movement of heavy trucks carrying petroleum products the roads have turned really bad. This road is ok if you are on foot or a two-wheeler.
If you come by car then would suggest two roads which go past oil storage facilities but here also you might be in a traffic snarl due to oil tanker movements.
Red Line is the shortest route but the condition of the road is bad. If you are coming by car then I would suggest you take the Blue Line or Yellow Line road which originates from the main Budge Budge road.
If you are coming by train then get down as Komagata Maru Budge Budge railway station which is connected with Sealdah South and have direct trains to Budge Budge which is the last stoppage. You can walk down from the station towards the memorial which would be just around a kilometer.
Komagata Maru Memorial At Budge Budge
Surprisingly it is a very small memorial something which I could not make out from the photograph of the scale model. It is shaped like a Kirpan which is a type of dagger carried by Sikhs. The height may be of just one-storied building.
At the base of this monument, you will find several murals depicting the various scenes of the Komagata Maru incident at Budge Budge. At the front, there is the face of Baba Gurdit Singh who was the de facto leader for the passengers of the ship.
There is a stone tablet with names of the passengers killed during the Komagata Maru incident in Budge Budge, this list included people killed indirect firing as well as people killing indirectly during the attack by the police on the passengers. Another stone tablet commemorates the opening of the memorial by Jawaharlal Nehru the then prime minister of India.
Komagata Maru Memorial Museum
Kolkata Port Trust authorities had decided to open a new museum right next to the memorial spot and the building is now ready. The museum will house murals, photographs, and other memorabilia from that incident.
Gurdwara Shaheedganj Komagata Maru
There is a bug Gurdwara located around a kilometer from the Komagata Maru Memorial on Budge Budge main road. Every year on 29th September a special event is held at the Gurdwara commemorating the deadly massacre of Sikhs.
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The Story Of My Life By Lala Lajpat Rai
Vancouver Public Library Historical Photographs
Gurdwara Shaheedganj Komagata Maru Committee Members
Other Blogs Around Budge Budge
Locating Fort Budge Budge And Fort Makwa Tana
Achipur Telegraph & Semaphore Station
Swami Vivekananda and Budge Budge Railway Station
Moyapur Achipur Barood Ghar Magazine
Achipur Chinese Temple and Sugar Trade