Unsung Heroes | History Corner | Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, Ministry of Culture, Government of India

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Paying tribute to India’s freedom fighters

Mewa Singh Lopoke

Amritsar, Punjab

May 31, 2022 to May 31, 2023

Mewa Singh, from Lopoke village in Amritsar, Punjab, was one of the bravest ghadarites. In the year 1880, he was born at the home of Nand Singh Aulakh. Like many other Punjabis, he migrated to Canada in 1906 in pursuit of better job opportunities. He obtained a job in a lumber company in New Westminster.

Mewa Singh became a close associate of Bhag Singh, Balwant Singh and other nationalistic Sikhs in Vancouver. He raised funding for the construction of Vancouver's first community gurdwara. He was baptised as a Sikh on June 21, 1908. The anti-Sikh immigration policies of the Canadian government, together with the prejudiced attitude of the press, the public, and politicians, created animosity among the Sikh community. The passengers of the Komagata Maru (Guru Nanak Jahaz) ship were denied admission to Canada as a result of this discriminatory policy. A British Columbia court ordered the government to send the ship back on July 6, 1914. The Ghadar Party in Vancouver planned to utilise the ship to transport revolutionary literature and weapons to India. For this reason, Mewa Singh and a group of other ghadarites travelled to Sumas, a city on the Canadian-US border. Mewa Singh was arrested and detained by police while returning home. He was forced to deliver testimony against Bhag Singh and other Ghadar Party members by British intelligence officer William Hopkinson, but he refused. He was fined $50 and released by the court.

With the outbreak of World War I, immigrant political activities picked up steam. Bela Singh, a Hopkinson tipster, assassinated Bhag Singh and Badhan Singh. Hopkinson attempted to sway the jury in the case against Bela Singh. He also threatened Mewa Singh, saying that if he did not testify in court in Bela Singh's favour, he and his accomplices would be killed.

Hopkinson, according to Mewa Singh, was responsible for the deaths of Bhag Singh and Badhan Singh. Hopkinson appeared in court on October 21, 1914, to depose in favour of Bela Singh. Hopkinson was shot four times by Mewa Singh at point-blank range. He died on the spot. Mewa Singh surrendered himself to police officials. Authorities in Canada tried to prove that Mewa Singh was insane and that he murdered Hopkinson under the influence of Ghadar Party members. A large number of ghadarites were rounded off. Mewa Singh, on the other hand, admitted to being solely responsible for the murder. Court proceedings began on October 30, 1914, and finished on January 11, 1915. Mewa Singh made unequivocal remarks regarding racial prejudice, British slavery, and the harsh treatment of immigrants by Canadian immigration authorities in his statement before the judges. He said:

“My religion prohibits me from harbouring ill will towards anyone, and I had no animosity towards Mr Hopkinson. He was a ruthless oppressor of the poor. As a devout Sikh, I couldn't bear witnessing wrongdoing against my countrymen and the Dominion of Canada. This is what drove me to murder Hopkinson and endanger my own life. And I will approach the scaffold with the same eagerness as a hungry infant approaches his mother."

He was given the death sentence by the judges. He smilingly kissed the gallows in New Westminster's provincial jail on January 11, 1915. The Khalsa Diwan Society of Vancouver built the community kitchen in Mewa Singh's honour and named it ‘Shaheed Mewa Singh Hall’.

A large gathering of Sikh emigrants attended the funeral of Mewa Singh at Frazer Mill, West Minister on 11 January 1915