Protesters opposing farm laws disrupt Holi celebration in Canadian city
Tension flared up in the city of Edmonton on Saturday as a celebration of the Holi festival by the Indo-Canadian community was disrupted by protesters opposing the three farm laws passed by India’s Parliament.
Nearly 400 people gathered at the Heritage Valley Park in Edmonton, a city in the province of Alberta, to celebrate Holi, to be followed by a Peace and Harmony Indo-Canadian Tiranga Yatra organised by the Bharatiya Multicultural and Heritage Society of Alberta. The participants included families with children.
However, they were confronted by a group of about 100 protesters shouting slogans against the Indian government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The protesters blocked the route that the car rally was to take, delaying the event for nearly three hours.
Organisers of the celebration said some of the protesters also carried Khalistan flags, while the pro-Khalistan group Shirmani Akali Dal Amritsar (Canada) sent out a message saying the “rally was to demonise the farmers’ protest in India”.
However, organisers of the Tiranga Yatra, who asked not be named, said their event had no political motive or agenda. “This was an expression of solidarity in the community as we haven’t been able to gather together to celebrate our festivals for over a year due to Covid-19,” an organiser said. She added that permission to hold the event and the car rally was taken weeks earlier from the city and police.
Another organiser said while the rally was originally scheduled to commence at 1pm, it only began three hours later as the route the cars were to take was blocked by the protesters.
Police cordoned off the protesters from the event participants but it took that much time to clear the area for the rally to proceed. The rally featured nearly 250 vehicles, flying both the Indian and Canadian flags, and lasted for about an hour.
“We have been separated for a year and we were looking forward to being together but these nearly 100 protesters spoilt the day for some of us,” an organiser said.
Recent car rallies by the Indo-Canadian community have been similarly disrupted, in some cases resulting in instances of violence. Incidents of assault and harassment were captured on video during a Tiranga-Maple Rally in the Greater Toronto Area on February 28, which resulted in the arrest of two persons, including Jodhveer Dhaliwal, brother-in-law of New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh.
A Tiranga Yatra in Metro Vancouver on February 7, to celebrate Republic Day, resulted in protests outside the office of two of the organisers and also threats and intimidating phone calls.