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Sikhs celebrate New Year in Toronto

Source: PTI
April 26, 2010 10:32 IST
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Thousands of people have celebrated the Sikh New Year in Toronto, amid tension that a fresh outbreak of violence within the community could spoil the function.

An estimated 80,000 Sikhs took part in the city's 25th Khalsa Day parade yesterday which went off peacefully.

The Toronto police were on hand to control crowds and monitor traffic during the parade, which commemorates the founding of the Khalsa order of Sikhism.

"We are not anticipating any problems but we will be prepared to deal with anything," police said.

The festivities kicked off with traditional music, hymns and prayers at Exhibition Place before the parade started on its route toward Queen's Park in Toronto.

Several political and religious leaders including Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and Mississauga-Brampton South MP Navdeep Singh Bains addressed the gathering.

Last week, a fight broke out between two Sikh factions inside a gurdwara near here, injuring four people.

The brawl, involving as many as 100 people inside the Sri Guru Nanak Sikh Centre in Brampton, about 45-km west of Toronto, was the result of a long-standing disagreement between two groups from the temple.

Organisers were hoping the parade could help people see their faith in a positive light.

"There is no conflict today -- everyone is together," Gorbinder Singh Randhawa said and added, "Everyone is in a good mood. This is a celebration, which is above everything."

The celebrations provided a stark contrast to recent violence in the local Sikh community, including the April 2 stabbing of Indo-Canadian lawyer Manjit Mangat outside a gurudwara in Brampton. Mangat survived the attack.

Federal police, meanwhile, are investigating an online posting calling for the murder of Canada's top Sikh politician, Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, after he warned of rising Sikh extremism in this country.

"Someone shoots him ASAP," read a comment posted on the Facebook site titled "Ujjal Dosanjh is a Sikh Traitor."

"I'm concerned, not afraid," Dosanjh who is emerging as secular Sikh leader told PTI over phone.

"The majority of the community is peace loving, but there is a significant minority -- and nobody should deny that actually perpetuates this hate and violence."

"Glorification of violence causes for Sikh strife and it must be curbed by smart means jointly by both Canadian and Indian governments," Dosanjh said.

 "The militancy in a section of Sikh community is worse now. The number of people who have continued to perpetuate that kind of hatred has become smaller, but are more consistent and more sophisticated and using high-tech means to spread misinformation," he added.

Yesterday's event, which has grown from 2,000 people since its inception in 1986 to become Toronto's third-largest parade, featured floats, martial arts performers and colourful costumes.

Image: Sikhs in Toronto celebrate New Year.

Photograph: JP Moczulski / Reuters

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Related News: Ujjal Dosanjh, Toronto, Sikh, ASAP, PTI