"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

Mewa Singh’s portrait installed at the constituency office of MLA Rachna Singh Featured

On the martyrdom day of Mewa Singh, the first Indian political activist to be hanged in Canada, his portrait was installed at the constituency office of Surrey Greentimbers MLA Rachna Singh on the morning of January 11.  

Mewa Singh was one of the Indian revolutionaries who fought against the British occupation of India and racism abroad. He was among those Sikh immigrants who started coming to Canada to earn a better livelihood by the end of the nineteenth century. Mewa Singh faced the gallows with courage and conviction after being convicted for the assassination of controversial Immigration Inspector William Hopkinson. He was executed on January 11, 1915.  

Hopkinson had precipitated a conflict within the South Asian immigrant community, and was responsible for the murders of two Sikh activists inside a gurdwara days after the Komagata Maru ship was forcibly returned.  

The Japanese vessel carried more than 300 South Asian immigrants, who were compelled to leave under discriminatory immigration laws aimed at keeping Canada a so-called "white man’s land". The current Canadian government has already apologized for the episode that had culminated into the violence leading to the murder of Hopkinson.

Mewa Singh was deeply enraged by the killings of his comrades inside a place of worship, and wanted to avenge this act of sacrilege. He was a religious man who went to the scaffold with prayers on his lips. In his testimony, he owned up the assassination and never appealed for mercy. His testimony also shows how much he was pained by blatant racism against his community. 

Drawn by Jarnail Singh, the portrait of Mewa Singh was unveiled by community activists, Parminder Swaich, Gian Singh Gill and Surinder Singh Jabbal. This was the first time Mewa Singh's portrait was installed inside the constituency office of any elected official, according to Jarnail Singh.  

Swaich is associated with Ghadar Centenary Committee which has launched a petition seeking recognition of Mewa Singh as a hero. It has received more than 10,000 signatures until now.

Among others present on the occasion were young dramatist Paneet Sigh, who had produced a play on Mewa Singh that was originally performed at the site of Hopkinson’s murder in Vancouver, and Raj Singh Toor, whose maternal grandfather was aboard the Komagata Maru. MLA Rachna Singh’s father, Dr. Raghbir Singh, who is an authority on Mewa Singh and the radical history was also in attendance. So was independent broadcaster Dr. Gurvinder Singh Dhaliwal, who has encouraged the community to hold a moment of silence on the morning of January 11 every year in commemoration of Mewa Singh’s hanging. Also in attendance were Taraksheel Society leader Avtar Gill, and Guru Nanak Free Kitchen organizer Avtar Singh, besides Human Rights lawyer and former NDP candidate Amandeep Singh. 

Rachna Singh acknowledged that whatever privileges and rights elected officials like her enjoy today in Canada are the result of the sacrifices made by Mewa Singh. She also reminded the gathering that the fight for a just society, for which Mewa Singh stood, isn’t over yet as racism continues to exist.

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Last modified on Saturday, 12 January 2019 20:09
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