Jan 8, 2020
THE City of New Westminster is going to declare January 11 as Bhai Mewa Singh Day in commemoration of a Sikh political activist who was hanged in 1915.
Mewa Singh was part of a radical movement that was launched by the Indian immigrants in North America against British occupation of India and racism abroad.
Singh was a devout Sikh, who had assassinated a controversial Immigration Inspector, William 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 that was enacted to keep Canada as a “white man’s country”. This had led to bloody clashes between the political activists and the 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 shot him and courted arrest soon after. Even otherwise Hopkinson was keeping an eye on the activists and tried to weaken the movement to serve the interests of the British Empire.
Mewa Singh faced his 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 to such an extreme step in response to racism and sacrilege of the temple.
As a fitting tribute to Mewa Singh, who laid down his life fighting against injustice, the Mayor of the City of New Westminster Jonathan Cote is going to proclaim January 11, 2020 as “Bhai Mewa Singh Day”. The proclamation will be made on Monday, January 13 at the city council meeting at 6 p.m.
City Councillor Chuck Puchmayr is instrumental behind the proclamation for which an application was made by Radical Desi. Whereas, the BC government refused to make such a proclamation, the City of New Westminster agreed to make it after it removed the statue of controversial colonial era Judge Mathew Begbie, who had ordered the execution of six Chilcotin Chiefs in 1864 for the murder of 14 white road construction workers who were harassing the indigenous peoples and their women. Motion for removing his statue was moved by Puchmayr, who is very vocal on social justice.