Kamagata Maru

Essay by jawanda December 2006

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The infamous Kamagata Maru incident is the most significant event for Sikhs in Canadian history. It was caused by both the British and Canadian governments, who at that time were extremely racist and intolerant about Sikhs from India. The Kamagata Maru incident in India corresponds to the Indian people's struggle for independence and freedom from the British Empire. While in Canada it is a reminder of the tremendously unjust law of exclusion for Sikhs and other immigrants from India. The state of Canadian Sikhs both before and after this event did not change a great deal, for the reason that racism still continued to be active and the passengers of the Kamagata Maru were refused entrance despite the long two month debates and wait. Canadian Sikhs learnt many lessons from this event and current Sikhs are still very disappointed by the outcome and are seeking apologies from the Canadian government.

The Sikh community has survived and prospered in Canada, despite the prejudice and hostility it faced from the Kamagata Maru event.

India in the nineteenth century was ruled by the British. The majority of the Sikhs living in India at this time were farmers, servants at British homes, or soldiers working for the British government helping them make their control stronger. The British had started trading raw materials produced by India, with the hard work of its citizens, to other British colonies, making a lot of profit while the people who actually produced the goods got barely anything. The average Indian made roughly ten cents a day. Yet wages in Canada were ten to fifteen times as high as they had been in India. Many people working for the British in the military frequently overheard people from other countries talk about freedom. Many realized that they were being treated...