Archive | Wednesday , August 18 , 2010

Poem: Passion by Orville Lloyd Douglas

It only takes one glance, one moment, one second, to feel you .

All I have to do is simply imagine with my eyes wide open.

Your manhood is more  potent than a drug.

I tremble when your dark hands touch my ebony skin and I surrender.

The euphoria is overwhelming.

When you exploded you screamed in Punjabi.

I swallowed the warm honey and savoured it.

Your tongue traveled from the fire in Mumbai, drenched in the sweltering heat of  Kingston, across the universe of solitude in Toronto.

For a long time I wasn`t cognizant this  love  was deleterious.

I  close my eyes praying it was just an illusion.

I had this mirage that we will wake up in bed on a Sunday morning as the tea and coffee are brewing.

I can smell the roti, Mango Lassi, salt fish, ackee, dumplings, and Samosas.

We read the Toronto Star together celebrating our eighth anniversary.

You promise me we will visit India soon.

I still hold on to that hoping it will happen.

Tears stream down your face.

You say you are crying about your dog Jimmy he died when you were only six years old.

You say this is not God`s way.

But you are not a Christian you are Sikh.

I kiss you and we embrace.

I want to lie to you and say everything is going to be alright.

The stack of gifts, the well wishes, the ceremonial mixtures of east and west.

I fall asleep but suddenly feel barren.

I jump out of the bed, search the house, but you are not here.

That incident was a year ago.

I remember  walking  in Markham Ontario and I saw you holding a newborn, and enjoying a picnic with your beloved.

Your folks have smiles on their faces but you are solemn.

This bitterness ate your heart out.

I want to pull her hair out but I stand in the shadows lurking, seething, with this hunger this desire.

I cringe when you kiss her and your mother smiles.

I guess it was easy for you to decide.

I turn away from your family moment, the camera clicks as the baby cries for breastmilk.

You soothe the child in your arms but quickly turn away when you see me.

Her womb is full again and this is your duty.

I understand, sometimes passion just isn`t enough.

Wikipedia Article Canada’s Racist History Against South Asians: The 1914 Komagata Maru Incident Is Similar To The 2010 Tamil Migrant Contorversy!

Komagata Maru incident

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Sikhs aboard the Komagata Maru in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, 1914

The Komagata Maru incident involved a Japanese steamship, the Komagata Maru, that sailed from Hong Kong to Shanghai, China; Yokohama, Japan; and then to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in 1914, carrying 376 passengers from Punjab, India. The passengers were not allowed to land in Canada and the ship was forced to return to India. The passengers consisted of 340 Sikhs, 24 Muslims, and 12 Hindus, all British subjects. This was one of several incidents in the history of early 20th century involving exclusion laws in Canada and the United States designed to keep out immigrants of Asian origin.




[edit] Immigration controls in Canada

The Canadian government’s first attempt to restrict immigration from India was to pass an order-in-council on Jan. 8, 1908, that prohibited immigration of persons who “in the opinion of the Minister of the Interior” did not “come from the country of their birth or citizenship by a continuous journey and or through tickets purchased before leaving their country of their birth or nationality.” In practice this applied only to ships that began their voyage in India, as the great distance usually necessitated a stopover in Japan or Hawaii. These regulations came at a time when Canada was accepting massive numbers of immigrants (over 400,000 in 1913 alone – a figure that remains unsurpassed to this day), almost all of whom came from Europe.

[edit] Baba Gurdit Singh Sandhu’s initial idea

Gurdit Singh Sandhu, from Sarhali (not to be confused with Gurdit Singh Jawanda, from Haripur Khalsa, a 1906 Indo-Canadian immigration pioneer), was a well-to-do fisherman in Singapore who was aware of the problems that Punjabis were facing immigrating to Canada due to certain exclusion laws. He wanted to circumvent these laws by hiring a boat to sail from Calcutta to Vancouver. His aim was to help his compatriots whose previous journeys to Canada had been blocked.

Though Gurdit Singh was apparently aware of regulations when he chartered the Komagata Maru in January, 1914,[1] he continued with his purported goal of challenging the continuous journey regulation and opening the door for immigration from India to Canada.

At the same time, in January, 1914, he publicly espoused the Ghadarite cause while in Hong Kong.[2] The Ghadar Party was an organization founded by Indians of the United States and Canada in June, 1913 with the aim to liberate India from British rule. It was also known as the Hindi Association of the Pacific Coast.

[edit] Passengers

The passengers consisted of 340 Sikhs, 24 Muslims, and 12 Hindus, all British subjects. One of the Sikh passengers, Jagat Singh Thind, was the youngest brother of Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind, an Indian American Sikh writer and lecturer on “spiritual science” who was involved in an important legal battle over the rights of Indians to obtain U.S. citizenship (United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind).[3]

[edit] The Voyage

[edit] Departure from Hong Kong

Hong Kong became the point of departure. The ship was scheduled to leave in March, but Singh was arrested for selling tickets for an illegal voyage. He was later released on bail and given permission by the Governor of Hong Kong to set sail, and the ship departed on April 4 with 165 passengers. More passengers joined at Shanghai on April 8, and the ship arrived at Yokohama on April 14. It left Yokohama on May 3 with its complement of 376 passengers, and sailed into Burrard Inlet, near Vancouver, on May 23. “This ship belongs to the whole of India, this is a symbol of the honour of India and if this was detained, there would be mutiny in the armies” a passenger told a British officer. The Indian Nationalist revolutionaries Barkatullah and Balwant Singh met with the ship en route. Balwant Singh was head priest of the Gurdwara in Vancouver and had been one of three delegates sent to London and India to represent the case of Indians in Canada. Ghadarite literature was disseminated on board and political meetings took place on board.

[edit] Arrival in Vancouver

Komagata Maru (furthest ship on the left) being escorted by the HMCS Rainbow and a swarm of small boats

When the Komagata Maru arrived in Canadian waters, it was not allowed to dock. The first immigration officer to meet the ship in Vancouver was Fred “Cyclone” Taylor.[4] The Conservative Premier of British Columbia, Richard McBride, gave a categorical statement that the passengers would not be allowed to disembark, as the then-Prime Minister of Canada Sir Robert Borden decided what to do with the ship. Conservative MP H.H. Stevens organized a public meeting against allowing the ship’s passengers to disembark and urged the government to refuse to allow the ship to remain. Stevens worked with immigration official Malcolm R. J. Reid to keep the passengers off shore. It was Reid’s intransigence, supported by Stevens, that led to mistreatment of the passengers on the ship and to prolonging its departure date, which wasn’t resolved until the intervention of the federal Minister of Agriculture, Martin Burrell, MP for Yale—Cariboo.

Meanwhile a “shore committee” had been formed with Hassan Rahim and Sohan Lal Pathak. Protest meetings were held in Canada and the USA. At one, held in Dominion Hall, Vancouver, it was resolved that if the passengers were not allowed off, Indo-Canadians should follow them back to India to start a rebellion (or Ghadar). A British government agent who infiltrated the meeting wired London and Ottawa to tell them that supporters of the Ghadar Party were on the ship.

The shore committee raised $22,000 as an installment on chartering the ship. They also launched a test case legal battle in the name of Munshi Singh, one of the passengers. On July 6, the full bench of the B.C. Court of Appeal gave a unanimous judgement that under new Orders-In-Council, it had no authority to interfere with the decisions of the Department of Immigration and Colonization.[5] The Japanese captain was relieved of duty by the angry passengers, but the Canadian government ordered the harbour tug Sea Lion to push the ship out to sea. On July 19, the angry passengers mounted an attack. The next day the Vancouver newspaper The Sun reported: “Howling masses of Hindus showered policemen with lumps of coal and bricks… it was like standing underneath a coal chute”.

[edit] Departure from Vancouver

The government also mobilised the HMCS Rainbow, a former Royal Navy ship under the command of Commander Hose, with troops from the Royal Irish Fusiliers, 72nd Highlanders, and the 6th DCOR [Duke of Connaught's Own] regiments. In the end, only 24 passengers were admitted to Canada, since the ship had violated the exclusion laws, the passengers did not have the required funds, and they had not sailed directly from India. The ship was turned around and forced to depart on July 23 for Asia.

[edit] Return to India

The Komagata Maru arrived in Calcutta on September 27. Upon entry into the harbor, the ship was forced to stop by a British gunboat, and the passengers were placed under guard. Unfortunately, the British government of India saw the men on the Komagata Maru as dangerous political agitators. When the ship docked at Budge Budge, the police tried to arrest Baba Gurdit Singh and the twenty or so other men that they saw as leaders. In the process, shots were fired and nineteen of the passengers were killed. Some escaped, but the remainder were arrested and imprisoned or sent to their villages and kept under village arrest for the duration of the First World War. Six months of confinement on board the Komagata Maru ended for most of these passengers in another form of confinement.[6] This incident became known as the Budge Budge Riot.

Gurdit Singh Sandhu managed to escape and lived in hiding until 1922. He was urged by Mahatma Gandhi to give himself up as a true patriot; he duly did so, and was imprisoned for five years.

[edit] Significance

The Komagata Maru incident was widely cited at the time by Indian groups to highlight discrepancies in Canadian immigration laws. Further, the inflamed passions in the wake of the incident were widely cultivated by the Indian revolutionary organisation, the Ghadar Party, to rally support for its aims. In a number of meetings ranging from California in 1914 to the Indian diaspora, prominent Ghadarites including Barkatullah, Tarak Nath Das, and Sohan Singh used the incident as a rallying point to recruit members for the Ghadar movement, most notably in support of promulgating plans to coordinate a massive uprising in India.

[edit] Legacy

[edit] India

In 1951, the government of the new Republic of India erected its first monument at Budge Budge to commemorate the massacre there.[7]

[edit] Canada

[edit] Memorials

A plaque commemorating the 75th anniversary of the departure of the Komagata Maru was placed in the Sikh gurdwara (temple) in Vancouver on July 23, 1989.

A plaque commemorating the 80th anniversary of the arrival of the Komagata Maru was placed in the Vancouver harbour in 1994.

[edit] Governmental apologies

In response to calls for the government of Canada to address historic wrongs involving immigration and wartime measures, the Conservative government in 2006 created the community historical recognition program to provide grant and contribution funding for community projects linked to wartime measures and immigration restrictions and a national historical recognition program to fund federal initiatives, developed in partnership with various groups. The announcement was made on June 23, 2006, at the time Prime Minister Harper apologized in the House of Commons for the head tax against Chinese immigrants.[8]

On Aug. 6, 2006, Prime Minister Harper made a speech at the Ghadri Babiyan da Mela (festival) in Surrey, B.C., where he stated that the government of Canada acknowledged the Komagata Maru incident and announced the government’s commitment to “undertake consultations with the Indo-Canadian community on how best to recognize this sad moment in Canada’s history.”[9]

In April 3, 2008, Ms. Ruby Dhalla, MP for Brampton-Springdale, tabled motion 469 (M-469) in the House of Commons which read, “That, in the opinion of the House, the government should officially apologize to the Indo-Canadian community and to the individuals impacted in the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which passengers were prevented from landing in Canada.”[10]

On May 10, 2008, Jason Kenney, Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity), announced the Indo-Canadian community would be able to apply for up to $2.5-million in grants and contributions funding to commemorate the Komagata Maru incident.[11]

Following further debate on May 15, 2008, Ms. Dhalla’s motion was passed by the House of Commons.[12]

On May 23, 2008, the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia unanimously passed a resolution “that this Legislature apologizes for the events of May 23, 1914, when 376 passengers of the Komagata Maru, stationed off Vancouver harbour, were denied entry by Canada. The House deeply regrets that the passengers, who sought refuge in our country and our province, were turned away without benefit of the fair and impartial treatment befitting a society where people of all cultures are welcomed and accepted.”[13]

On Aug. 3, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appeared at the 13th annual Ghadri Babiyan Da Mela (festival) in Surrey, B.C. to issue an apology for the Komagata Maru incident. He said, in response to the House of Commons motion calling for an apology by the government, “On behalf of the government of Canada, I am officially conveying as prime minister that apology.”[14]

Some members of the Sikh community were unsatisfied with the apology as they expected it to be made in Parliament. Secretary of State Jason Kenney said, “The apology has been given and it won’t be repeated,” thus settling the matter for the federal government.[15]

[edit] Media

The first play in Canada based on the incident was The Komagata Maru Incident, written by Sharon Pollack and presented in January, 1976.[16]

Ajmer Rode wrote the play Komagata Maru based on the incident in 1984.

In 2004, Ali Kazimi‘s feature documentary Continuous Journey was released, This is the first in-depth film to examine the events surrounding the turning away of the Komagata Maru. The primary source research done for the film led to the remarkable discovery of rare film footage of the ship in Vancouver harbour. Eight years in the making Continuous Journey has won over ten awards, including the Most Innovative Canadian Documentary at DOXA, Vancouver 2005, and most recently, Golden Conch at the Mumbai International Film Festival, 2006

The CBC radio play Entry Denied, by the Indo-Canadian scriptwriter Sugith Varughese focuses on the incident.

In early 2006, film director, Deepa Mehta, said she would produce a film about the incident titled Komagata Maru. On Oct. 9, 2008, it was announced that she had recast the lead role in favor of Akshay Kumar and Shriya Saran with a budget of $35-million.[17]

Digital Journal Article: Writer Blasts The Canadian Public & Media For Racism Against Tamil Migrants.

In the Media

Aug 14, 2010 by Hans Smedbol 22 comments

article imageOpinion: Nasty Cycle of Prejudice Repeats Again with Tamil Refugees

By Hans Smedbol .
The recent unfolding drama of the MV Sun Sea, approaching the coast of B.C. with its cargo of Sri Lankan Tamil refugee claimants, if nothing else, once again highlights the typical response by the Canadian public to an influx of people from foreign lands.
In the last couple of days, we have seen the imminent arrival of a dilapidated freighter, named MV Sun Sea, registered in Thailand, and carrying a cargo of some 500 Sri Lankan Tamils seeking and claiming asylum here in Canada with attendant refugee status, thus bypassing the usual immigrant stream.
They have come because of a perceived danger to the people on board from the recently victorious Sri Lankan, Sinhalese majority government military suppression of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka after a long civil war in which atrocities were committed by both sides in the unending struggle. This struggle was commenced by some of the Tamils living in Lanka due to their perceptions of everyday oppression and repression, as well as prejudicial racist treatment by the majority Sinhalese ever since the liberation of Sri Lanka from British rule.
In reality this conflict can be traced to the British empire methods of “Divide et Impera”, or “divide and conquer”, by which they maintained an easier grip on colonial power if they played the locals off against one another, profiting from supplying both sides until anemic from blood loss they would ask the British for help in governing. It worked very well over the years of the Empire, but it wreaked havoc on the locals after the British left, as the Divide and conquer idea now degraded into just divide and have a civil war…or as in India/Pakistan, divide and murder each other freely. So due to this Imperialistic policy, and due to other more local causes, the country of Lanka has been locked in civil war for a very long time, during which both sides committed unknown amounts of atrocities on each other, each blaming the other for committing war crimes and each being guilty themselves.
Finally the Tamils lost their gamble for freedom from the hated Sinhalese oppression, and have been openly repressed, to the point of being slaughtered, en masse since, as well as being confined to prison camps, while the Sinhalese steal what little land the Tamils previous had. Understandably many Tamils found this unbearable and sought an exit, and finding one on the Thai registered ship MV Sun Sea, hoping that they might find some peace from the eternal hatred and conflicts of their native land, where they may daily face the threat of torture or death from the Sinhalese military. These Tamils, fleeing their native land, have now arrived after a long and perilous journey on a dilapidated and over crowded freighter, in Esquimalt, where they are being processed according to their refugee claims, with the avowed aim by the Canadian government to sift out the “terrorists” and “human traffickers” from the legitimate refugees, and to deal with them swiftly and severely.
The legitimate refugee claimants on the other hand would be investigated as to their actual refugee status, and then either allowed into Canada as refugees, or sent back home as failed claimants. All of this the government is laudably carrying out at some expense, as is expected by the world body, the UNHCR, who praised Canada’s current handling of the crisis. What some may not realise is that Canada has signed international agreements having the force of international law to abide by the UNHCR’s guidelines for accepting or rejecting refugee claimants. When one follows this developing story through various media sources, one is struck by the various words used by media to describe this phenomenon, of a boatload of refugees landing and seeking asylum. We read occasionally of “refugees” , “refugee claimants”, and more often of “migrants”, or even “criminals” and “terrorists”. This choice of language to describe the refugee claimants has seriously coloured and skewed the view which one is encouraged to take towards these people, and many Canadians have responded in a very negative manner to these folks seeking asylum here.
When one reads the comments to these stories, the gloves really come off and the racist and bigoted comments far prevail over cooler heads. I would venture to suggest that about 90% of all the comments that I have read about this story have been filled with negative and bigoted views, spewing lots of venom and racial hatred all over the place. This is unfathomable and unforgiveable in this 21st century, where most Canadians consider themselves to be a civilised people. This fond illusion, or rather self-delusion, is increasingly shown to be utterly untrue, when one reads the prejudiced and bigoted comments by a wide cross-section of the Computer using Canadian public. Despite our claims to being an “enlightened” and “civilised” society, when I read some of the comments made by ordinary Canadians visavis the Tamil refugee claimants, as well as immigration issues in general, I am appalled and amazed by the ignorance and prejudiced bigotry so blatantly displayed by these folks.
Although there is something to be said for such ignorance in a less literate and educated society, I do not believe that there is any place in a somewhat more mature (hopefully)_society, such as we in Canada like to think we embody. Not only must we abide by the international agreements which we sign, but we should be positively enthusiastic about doing so, as it is really only the “right” thing to do.
When the UNHCR gives us some conditional approval for our handling of this refugee crisis on our shores, it is as much to remind us of our obligations, as it is a compliment, and furthermore is meant to force our attentions towards the right and proper thing to do with these folks, which is to admit them to Canada provisionally, whilst under investigation as to the validity of each person’s claim…although i do insist that entire families must be treated as one in this case. If they are deemed “harmless” refugees from state oppression and murder as most of them are, they should (and will) be released into the country wherein they sought asylum from the unbearable pain of living as Tamils in Sri Lanka in these days.
Whereas the immigration folks wanted to have secret hearings with some of the folks who arrived on the last ship, investigating their supposed Tamil Tiger links, when they were pressed for actual evidence, there was none to be found and every single passenger was allowed refugee status (as far as i remember) So despite our disgraceful Public Safety Minister and his even more disgraceful way of addressing the Tamil issue, I would be willing to bet that they will find very few if any terrorists on board, but only families, with mothers, fathers, and children, most of whom have been seriously traumatised by their horrific experiences in a war zone where people of their nation were attacked and slaughtered en masse, simply for disagreeing with the Sinhalese government, and for longing for a homeland of their own, but mainly because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and got in the way of the slaughtering armies.
If there is no PTSD among these survivors of horror, I would be surprised. Unfortunately, the Canadian government, just like the Canadian public, was tempted to brazenly flout its most aggressive and egregious ill will upon the Tamils, and forbid them from even entering the Canadian waters, or failing that to just turn them around, like the Komagata Maru in 1914, wherein many Sihk refugee claimants were immediately slaughtered by police upon their forced return to Bengal, and the MS St. Louis in 1939, wherein a boatload of some 900 Jews was turned back to the German gas chambers in 1939.
This right wing conservative “not in my back yard” Harper government nearly acted on the same base instincts of xenophobia and gross bigotry, as the majority of the Canadian public were loudly shouting from the comments sections in the major online media, wherever there were stories about the refugees, and they WOULD have so acted except for the wise advice from government lawyers who insisted this kind of selfish, bigoted behaviour just won’t fly in the company that Canada keeps, in the International Community. The UNHCR was obviously concerned that the reactionary, and indecisive conservatives would act out their basest instincts, rather than observe the letter of the laws and international agreements which Canada had herself signed over the years. This is why the UNHCR have felt the necessity to make a comment upon the Canadian government handling of the affair as it unravels.
There is a long history of this kind of governmental and public behaviour in Canada, beginning, likely, with the founding of the country, and the attitudes even then expressed by the majority of UK descended folks towards other “lesser” European peoples, each of which had its own insulting nickname.
This continued on with the arrival of the so-called “yellow” races with Chinese economic migrants of the late 19th century as well as Japanese, who came to this country looking for a fortune, but who mainly found a grave instead due to overwork, and work site accidents. These foreigners were despised by the “white” Canadians, and were denied full citizenship until after the second world war. Not only that they had to pay a special “poll tax” just to come here, which was actually meant to discourage them by being expensive and out of reach. And then of course there were the Jews, universally hated by all good Christians.
Of course other nationalities who came to Canada still received their fair shares of bigotry as well…Norwegians were commonly called dumb Swedes and so on. When WWII broke out most Canadians couldn’t tell the difference between Norwegian immigrants and Germans, who they claimed were the “cousins” of the Norwegians anyways. Then there were the Doukhobors who came from Georgia in the former Russian Empire…they too got the same treatment, including the lies before they came and the police actions after they arrived, because they didn’t want to assimilate, nor pay taxes to support a military machine.
Later still came the folks from Asia again, from Punjab, and from Islamic states, from Sri Lanka and so on. Each new arriving group of immigrants has had to face the same old gauntlet of Canadian bigotry and racism, each time refreshingly presented in a “new” yet nauseatingly old form, each new immigrant finding him/herself fetchingly named with some “cute” little nickname. After some time of prejudice and bigotry, the new arrivals slowly settle in, and folks see that they are not the scary boogey men that they thought they were, that in fact, they are just like US. WOW!!! What a discovery that is!!
These strangers are really not so different from us, despite their skin colour, or their languages, or their clothing, or even their attitudes and outer cultural ways. We discover that these folks who we formerly alienated and despised for the simple reason that they were different from us, are in fact far more similar to us in all the important ways than we could ever have thought. And slowly we learn that this hatred and bigotry is not really the answer to strangers moving into the neighbourhood.
A little care, yes; hatred and bigotry no. It really IS time that we Canadians grew up and assumed our rightful responsibilities as well as our privileges, and it is time to realise that our selfish greedy ways are not necessarily even in our own best interests, what to think of our prejudiced and bigoted attitudes towards strangers. For a country in which many folks claim to be God-fearing Christians, it is even MORE surprising to read so many comments filled with such venomous ill will and uncharitable thoughts towards needy people.
After all isn’t there a passage in the New Testament which directly addresses this problem and prescribes what folks are supposed to do when confronted with people in need of support, whatever that support might be: “On the last day, Jesus will say to those on His right hand, “Come, enter the Kingdom. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was sick and you visited me.” Then Jesus will turn to those on His left hand and say, “Depart from me because I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not give me to drink, I was sick and you did not visit me.”
These will ask Him, “When did we see You hungry, or thirsty or sick and did not come to Your help?” And Jesus will answer them, “Whatever you neglected to do unto one of these least of these, you neglected to do unto Me!”” Matthew 25: 35-40 That passage seems pretty clear to me, and makes sense whether one is a Christian or not. What is being prescribed is simply what one loving heart would do for another, without asking for thanks or anything else. I hope you all enjoyed my rant but most of all I hope that people would consider what I have said, and strive to behave in more kindly and loving, compassionate ways towards other living beings in this messed up old world of ours. It really is our only hope.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of

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