Workers and militant labour activists from Punjab in Bengal (1921-1934)
Keywords:Komagata Maru, Ghadar, Sikhs, Punjab, migrants, Bengal, labour, militancy, inter-war, communists, Gurdit Singh, Bengal Kirti Dal
Sikh migrants joined post-war strike-waves, formed unions and turned left in the 1920s and early 1930s in and around Calcutta, in the South Bengal region under British rule. To them, an unofficial commemoration of Komagata Maru’s voyage and the militancy associated with the Ghadar movement during First World War, became inseparable from contemporary resistance to the domination of colonial capital and British colonial state in India. They engaged with, worked upon and simultaneously moved beyond the boundaries of ethno-linguistic and religious identities as well as the social content of anti-colonial nationalism by focusing on a self-aware identity based on organised class action. This understanding was linked with the lived experiences of migration and imperial exploitation, the components of identity that had come to the forefront during the war. The diasporic identity of the Sikh migrant workers converged with the wider labour movement and was politically reshaped in the post-war context as livelihood issues took on the form of systematic protests in the city and beyond.
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