Thousands showed up in Burnaby to participate in the annual parade to mark the birth anniversary of Guru Ravidas, a revolutionary saint of India – who had raised his voice against the caste based oppression against Dalits or the so called Untouchables.
Defying drizzling, people came out in big number on Saturday to attend 636th birth celebrations organized under the aegis of the Burnaby based Sri Guru Ravidas Sabha. The speakers emphasized to continue struggle against social injustices in the form of racism and casteism both in India and Canada.
In his brief speech before the beginning of the parade, the former BC Premier of BC, Ujjal Dosanjh insisted that the fight against caste based discrimination has to continue as many Indo Canadians have brought this problem with them to Canada. He also added that the continued discrimination against the indigenous peoples in Canada also needs to be stopped as a tribute to great men like Guru Ravidas.
The NPD MLA Raj Chouhan also denounced social injustices against the weaker sections of the society in Canada.
Others, who spoke on the occasion, included the MP Peter Julian, Burnaby Mayor Derrick Corrigan, Councilor Sav Dhaliwal, Burnaby School Trustee Harman Pandher, Counsel General of India in Vancouver, Ravi Shankar Aisola, Khalsa Diwan Society President Sohan Singh Deo and the coordinator of the parade, Lehmber Rao.
The Premier Christy Clark too sent her greetings to the organizers.
A prominent Dalit activist and author visiting from India, S.L. Birdi also joined the parade.
The pictures of Guru Ravidas and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian constitution and a Dalit icon greeted visitors from almost all the floats in the march. The third most striking portrait accompanying these men was that of Mangu Ram Muggowal, a former Ghadar activist who later became the leader of a powerful Dalit emancipation movement in Punjab. The Ghadar Party was launched by revolutionaries based in North America to overthrow British regime in India through armed rebellion. This year is the centenary of the Ghadar Party.
Muggowal’s son, Dharamvir Gangar was in the crowd.
The East Indian Defense Committee and its allies organized an exhibition of the pictures of the Ghadar heroes on the occasion. Besides, the parade included a float dedicated to the victims of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919. The float was prepared by the Mehak Punjab Di TV host Kamaljit Thind. The British forces had fired indiscriminately on the supporters of the passive resistance movement in Amritsar in 1919 leaving more than 300 people dead.
The leaders of the Ambedkar Federation, including Paramjit Kainth and Kamlesh Ahir also joined the parade apart from a group of social justice activists, Chetna Association. Among those present were the Association President, Surinder Ranga, and its founder members, Jai Birdi and Gurmit Sathi.