ANITA Lal, General Manager Anita Lal of the Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration Society, on Thursday issued the following apology and explanation regarding hosting their festival on the same weekend as the ‘1984 Sikh Genocide’:
THE Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration Society (VIBC) is a not for profit organization dedicated to creating an inclusive community through celebration and the joy of bhangra. We are a volunteer-run organization, created to serve the best interests of the entire community.
We sincerely apologize for the following:
* Hurting the sentiments of the Sikh community by hosting our City of Bhangra Festival on the same weekend as the 1984 Sikh Genocides
* Not fully appreciating the level of sensitivity around the first week of June and hosting an event on these dates
* Not having a clear conversation in advance to reschedule the 2015 City of Bhangra on a different weekend.
We realized that there was an issue one week before Downtown Bhangra, at which time it was too late to cancel or post-pone the event due to the sheer number of commitments—VIBC would never have recovered from a cancellation at such short notice. When we realized there was an issue, we reached out to the Student Sikh Association, organizers of the 1984 Sikh Genocide Memorial, to discuss what happened and came to a resolution. We put out a public statement, to apologize for the mistake, support the organizers of the 1984 Sikh Genocide Memorial this year, and ensure our dates would never conflict again in future years.
There was still unrest, which soon led to misinformation, including rumours that we refused to have open dialogue about rescheduling Downtown Bhangra. We have been in conversation with several organizations involved, and have been trying to work out a solution that is acceptable for everyone. While many do not agree with Downtown Bhangra happening on June 6, they understand our situation and recognized that we are sincerely sorry for any pain we may have caused. Our motive was never malicious, and we will continue to support the 1984 Sikh Genocide Memorial organizers on June 7, by bringing together the community and bringing attention to the memorial through our event.
In order to bring attention to the memorial and help educate our audiences, we made changes to our programming for the weekend even before we were asked to do so, because our agenda is to bring our community together. We have the platform to help send a positive message to thousands of people through our City of Bhangra Festival. We are committed to doing the following:
- Downtown Bhangra on June 6th will start with 1-minute of silence to remember the victims of the 1984 Sikh genocide.
- During the 1-minute of silence, a video/slide show will be shown (provided by the 1984 Genocide Memorial organizers).
- Jaz Dhami will begin his performance with the song “Saardari.” This song performance will be in remembrance of the 1984 Sikh genocide.
- VIBC will make an on-stage statement that starting in 2016, Downtown Bhangra will not fall on the first weekend of June to commemorate the 1984 Sikh genocides.
- VIBC will announce the 1984 Sikh Genocide Memorial vigil being planned on June 7 at Vancouver Art Gallery.
- VIBC will distribute written material provided by the 1984 Sikh Genocide Memorial organizers at Downtown Bhangra.
Once it was brought to our attention, we tried to resolve it as quickly as possible by reaching out to organizers in the community. We have been working tirelessly to bring about a solution with hopes that this conflict does not take attention away from the great work that invested organizations have been doing for years. We want the focus to stay on the hard work and the message of these organizations. We hope you can accept our humble apology and understand there was no malicious intent. We will continue to make every effort possible to create community and grow from our experiences. We will continue to strive and work with our community for open communication and peaceful dialogue.