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Retelling stories of courage, attack on Komagata Maru

Kewal Dhaliwal presents play at Azadi edition of Bharat Rang Mahotav

Retelling stories of courage, attack on Komagata Maru

Artistes enact a scene during Bharat Rang Mahotsav in Amritsar on Monday. Photo: Sunil Kumar



Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 1

Based on the Komagata Maru incident, Kewal Dhaliwal presented a play at the Azadi edition of the Bharat Rang Mahotav being hosted at the art gallery. The motivation behind creating a stage adaptation of Komagata Maru was to tell the tale of martyrs, who lost their lives protecting the countrymen against the British brutality and unprovoked violence.

On March 25 in 1914, Komagata Maru, a Japanese ship, carrying 376 passengers seeking asylum landed in Vancouver. Among the passengers were Punjabis and since Canada and India were both British colonies at the time, the ship was docked at the coast and passengers were denied entry into the country by the British Government.

After two months of waiting, only 26 of them were allowed to get off, while the rest were ordered to go back to Calcutta. The situation was already alarming at Vancouver between the British and Indians. The British soldiers opened fire at the ship, killing several in the ensuing riots.

Dhaliwal directed the saga through the perspective of the passengers sailing in that ship. “The operation of Komagata Maru has become an inseparable part of history of Canada. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had rendered an official apology, decades later, for the unfortunate incident. But the stories of those who lost their lives are important to tell for current generation,” said Dhaliwal.

He also designed the set, light and sound for the play to recreate the ship on stage. Dhaliwal is a graduate from the National School of Drama, New Delhi, with specialisation in design and direction.

Komagata Maru had been previously staged at several theatre festivals and special shows of the play were also staged at the 100th anniversary of the incident. The protagonist of the play, Gurdit Singh, who was born in Sarhali, Amritsar, was among the martyrs of Komagata Maru.

Leading the counter on the stealth attack by the British Police on the ship, Gurdit Singh and his compatriots repulsed the attack, losing their lives in the aftermath. The play was staged by artistes of Manch Rangmanch and received a standing ovation.

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