October 29, 2013 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Vancouver, Canada (October 29, 2013): Around 100 years after Ghadri Bhai Mewa Singh became the first Sikh from India/Punjab to be executed in Canada on charges of killing a senior British officer there, the Punjabis residing in the country are moving a petition against branding him as a criminal in the Canadian historical and legal records.
In wake of incident of firing inside a Sikh Gurdwara Sahib that had resulted in killings of two Sikhs namely Bhai Bhag Singh and Bhai Batan Singh, whose names are recorded in the history books as the first two martyrs of the movement in Canada, Bhai Mewa Singh had, in October 1914, killed William Charles Hopkinson, a British immigration inspector working in Canada.
Charged for Hopkinsons’s murder, Bhai Mewa Singh was hanged in New Westminster jail in January 1915.
Now, as the centenary of Bhai Mewa Singh’s execution is approaching, Vancouver-based Shaheed Bhai Mewa Singh Memorial Society, along with other prominent organizations, including Khalsa Diwan Society (Vancouver), has prepared a petition to be put up before the Canadian government to revise the text and reference in records, which term him as criminal.
It is notable that Bhai Mewa Singh held inspector Hopkinson responsible for the murder (Bela Singh) of the two Sikhs in the Gurdwara because the killer was working as a mole for Mr. Hopkinson. Mr. Hopkinson was to appear in court on October 21, 1914 to testify in favour of the killer Bela Singh. Bhai Mewa Singh went to court that same day and shot and killed Mr. Hopkinson. After shooting Mr. Hopkinson, Bhai Mewa Singh dropped his weapons and surrendered to the authorities. Bhai Mewa Singh was put on trial for the murder of Mr. Hopkinson. The presiding judge found him guilty and Bhai Mewa Singh was sentenced to death by hanging.
In his historical statement to the court Bhai Mewa Singh said:
My religion does not teach me to bear enmity with anybody, nor had I any enmity with Mr. Hopkinson. He was oppressing poor people very much. I, being a staunch Sikh, could no longer bear to see the wrong done both to my countrymen and the Dominion of Canada. This is what led me to take Hopkinson’s life and sacrifice my own life. And I, performing the duty of a true Sikh and remembering the name of God, will proceed towards the scaffold with the same amount of pleasure as a hungry baby goes towards his mother.
On January 11, 1915 at 7:45 am Bhai Mewa Singh was executed in New Westminster. Four hundred Sikhs stood outside and braved the rain and cold weather to receive Bhai Mewa Singh’s body. They took out a procession through the city and cremated Bhai Mewa Singh’s body at the Fraser Mills with great pride and honour.
Sikhs have continued to celebrate the legacy of Bhai Mewa Singh every year since 1915. The Khalsa Diwan Society – Vancouver and other organizations across British Columbia are proud to hold events every year in the memory of Bhai Mewa Singh Ji.
According to Times of India (TOI) a representative of Bhai Mewa Singh Memorial Society said: “We have drafted a petition in this regard and would submit it to the government after getting as many signatures as possible. We have also approached Punjabi MPs of Canada to raise the issue at appropriate platforms. Hopkinson’s slaying should not be seen as a criminal act but a killing committed due to some unusual circumstances”.
Sohan Singh Deo, president of Khalsa Diwan Society, Vancouver, said, “For Punjabis residing here, he is a martyr. As his martyrdom centenary year is approaching, we would forcefully put forth our demand”.
Read brief summery of this news in Punjabi/Gurmukhi:
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