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

Chuck Puchmayr honoured by a Surrey Sikh temple for recognizing Mewa Singh Day Featured


The members of Gurdwara Singh Sabha in Surrey have honoured a New Westminster City Councillor for recognizing a day in commemoration of first Sikh political activist to be hanged in Canada. 

Chuck Puchmayr was instrumental behind the Bhai Mewa Singh Day proclamation made by the New Westminster City Council on January 13. This was first time in history that a municipal government acknowledged the martyrdom day of Mewa Singh, who was executed on January 11, 1915 for assassinating a controversial immigration Inspector, William Hopkinson.

Puchmayr was honoured on Sunday in the presence of a huge congregation. Mayor Jonathan Cote was also invited, but could not make it due to a death in the family.

Among those in attendance was Surrey-Greentimbers MLA Rachna Singh, who had unveiled the portrait of Mewa Singh in her constituency office last year. Gurdwara Singh Sabha falls in her riding.

Mewa Singh was part of a radical movement launched by Indian immigrants in North America against British occupation of India and racism abroad. Singh was a devout Sikh, who murdered Hopkinson in Vancouver in 1914. The incident was the culmination of the infamous Komagata Maru episode.

The Japanese vessel carrying more than 300 South Asian passengers was forced to return under a discriminatory immigration law enacted to keep Canada as a “white man’s country”.  This had led to bloody clashes between the political activists and a pro-establishment faction of the community.  As a result of this, Bela Singh, a mole of the Canadian authorities within the Sikh community, went inside a gurdwara and shot to death a revolutionary community leader, Bhaag Singh, and his associate Badan Singh.

Since Bela Singh was patronised by Hopkinson, who had precipitated the conflict among the local South Asians through his spies, Mewa Singh murdered him and courted arrest soon after. Hopkinson was keeping an eye on the activists and tried to weaken their movement, to serve the interests of the British Empire.

Mewa Singh faced the trial with courage and conviction, and chanted prayers while being taken to the gallows in New Westminster jail. His testimony establishes that he had taken such an extreme step in response to racism and sacrilege of the temple.  

Those who spoke at the Sunday event were World Sikh Organization leader Prem Singh Vinning, Ghadar Memorial Society of Canada cofounder Gurvinder Singh Dhaliwal, besides MLA Singh and Puchmayr. 

Earlier, Puchmayr and his colleague Jamie McEvoy toured the community kitchen hall inside the gurdwara to see the portraits of Mewa Singh and his comrades displayed there. Jarnail Singh, the painter who made these portraits, showed them around. Puchmayr also presented the gurdwara officials with a copy of  the proclamation.

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