Friday, January 12, 2007

GURUDWARA TO MARK BHAI MEWA SINGH'S SACRIFICE

New Westminster: This weekend, Sikhs will celebrate the sacrifice of Bhai Mewa Singh, who was hanged in New Westminster in 1915. The Sikh pioneer assassinated a local police inspector he believed was behind the widespread persecution of Sikhs. The Sikh temple Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar in Queensbrough will host the celebrations on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday there will be a youth program in English on Singh followed by a movie on the Komagata Maru. On Sunday there will be lectures and a slideshow presentation on a man considered a martyr for Sikhism. Local Sikhs celebrate Bhai Mewa Singh because his sacrifices remind them each year of the struggles Sikhs had to endure to gain equality in Canada.
Leading up to his execution, there were acts of injustice and discrimination against the small population of Sikhs, most located in B.C. Discriminatory acts by the government of the time included the 1907 Election Act, which deprived East Indians from voting in provincial and municipal elections. Other legislation prevented the children and wives of Sikhs from immigrating to Canada to join their fathers and husbands. The most obvious sign of discrimination was the Komagata Maru incident in 1914 when 376 Sikhs, Muslims and Hindu passengers aboard the ship Komagata Maru were denied entry at Vancouver harbour, despite the fact they were British subjects.
They were also physically threatened, denied food, water and supplies and not permitted to take their individual cases before the courts. Two months after they arrived, the ship left Vancouver and returned to Hong Kong. Early Sikhs also had to endure race riots and shootings of their leaders. In 1914, Bhai Mewa Singh shot Inspector William Hopkinson, after the policeman’s testimony led to the acquittal of a man accused of shooting a prominent Sikh leader. In the subsequent trial, Singh told the court he could no longer bear to witness the wrong done to his people.

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I think it is good that they are making aware the sacrifices of our pioneers especially to the youth. I was at the New Westminster Gurdwara on Sunday and they had a small documentary movie that they made themselves and also presentations in English and Punjabi.
But the amazing thing was the 20 or so kids that sat and watched, listened, not only about Bhai Mewa Singh, but also about the general history of Sikhs in Vancouver and how they got here and the struggles that they went through.
Also they had a picture of the old Khalsa Diwan Gurdwara on West 2nd Ave, it was an amazing looking building, I spoke to someone afterwards and they told me in the 70’s they sold that building as it was no longer being used and now its apartments their now, such a shame as it would have been of great historical importance now and especially in the future.

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