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Komagata Maru Incident
Aug 03, 2017

[GS Paper I: (Modern Indian history from about middle of eighteenth century until the present significant events, personalities, issues)]

Why in news?

The government mint in Mumbai has put up for sale commemorative coins to mark the centenary of the Komagata Maru incident.  These coins can be booked from July 26 till September 26, both online and offline.

  • ‘Centenary of Komagata Maru Incident’ themed coins are available in Rs 100 and Rs 5 denominations. 
  • The coins depict a big ship named ‘Komagata Maru’ sailing in the sea, with year 1914-2014 printed at the periphery of the coin. 
  • In 2016, the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau had issued a formal statement of apology for the injustice faced by the victims of Komagata Maru incidence.

What was Komagata Maru incident?

  • Several strict immigration policies were adopted on racially discriminatory lines to curb the flow of Indian immigrants in the early 20th century, who were coming to Canada seeking work.
  • One such legislation was the Continuous Passage regulation, instituted by the Canadian government, which stated that immigrants must “come from the country of their birth, or citizenship, by a continuous journey” and using tickets “purchased before leaving the country of their birth or citizenship” – clearly making it nearly impossible for Indians to gain entry as legal immigrants.  
  • It was in this backdrop that the Komagata Maru incident took place on May 23, 1914 when the Japanese steamship Komagata Maru, carrying 376 Indian passengers, majority of whom were denied entry into Canada due to racially discriminatory immigration policies, was forced on a journey back to India. 
  • Adding further insult to the injury, some of the passengers were killed in protests on their return to India, when they were prevented from docking and attempts were made to arrest its leaders who were suspected by the colonial government to be political agitators.
  • The Komagata Maru episode attracted worldwide attention and condemnation for the violation of human rights and racism.

Significance

  • The incident bared the racial discrimination followed by the colonial regime towards its Indian subjects.
  • The episode further inspired the Ghadar party to engage in its struggle against the colonial rule and therefore it indirectly gave a fillip to the Indian struggle for freedom. 
  • The episode also reminds us of the role played by those who lived away from the country but kept struggling for the Independence of the country.

PT fact:

  • The first commemorative coin was issued in 1964 in the memory of India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. 

Commemorative coins

  • The commemorative coins mark the events of historical and social importance as well celebrates achievements of public or private organizations.
  • These high quality coins hold great value for collectors and the numismatics.
  • The Mumbai mint, a unit of Security Printing & Minting Corporation of India Ltd (SPMCIL), has been manufacturing these commemorative coins apart from circulation coins.
  • The first commemorative coin was issued in 1964 in the memory of India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.


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