Voices of Komagata Maru
Imperial Surveillance and Workers from Punjab in Bengal
Drawing on colonial archival records as well as the fragmentary references found in autobiographical accounts, the monograph steers the history of Komagata Maru’s journey in new directions. Radical responses to ‘racialized subjecthood’, imposed by the colonial state on Punjabi, especially Sikh, migrant workers in Calcutta and its suburbs during the First World War and the following decades are examined. Racist regulations of class, labour and social relationships underlined the politicization, self-awareness and formation of radical collectives among the migrants. Tracing the routes of self-assertion by workers from Punjab in Bengal at a micro-historical level, unknown and neglected aspects of the last stretch of Komagata Maru’s journey and its immediate and longterm local effects are unravelled.
The monograph touches on the links between inter-imperial geographies of surveillance and monopolistic working of colonial capital, the responses of the local Hindu and Muslim intelligentsia to the ship’s controversial voyage, the voices of the detained passengers of Komagata Maru, and the entry of the Sikh working-class diaspora into local revolutionary, left and labour movements. The monograph engages with war-time Ghadar and post-war Punjab Kirti Dal and Naujawan Bharat Sabha’s influence on the actions of Sikh workers in south Bengal. Also recorded is the interplay between acts of recollection and regional constitution of radical circles and associations in the wake of the ship’s voyage.