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article imageThousands remember India's independence, event met with protests Special

By Andrew Moran     Aug 14, 2011 in World
Toronto - Thousands gathered at Toronto's Yonge-Dundas Square to celebrate the 64th anniversary of India's independence. Although the joyous occasion filled the city square, more than a dozen Sikhs held a mini-protest across the street.
India Independence Day
On August 15, 1947, India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru declared the nation’s independence. The declaration ended 300 years of British colonialism and the beginning of freedom and self-determination.
The British had originally visited India for trade, but eventually it ruled the country and imposed itself on the administration.
“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we will redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom,” said PM Nehru in his speech 64 years ago.
Community group banging the drums during India Day in Toronto.
Community group banging the drums during India Day in Toronto.
“A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.... We end today a period of ill fortune, and India discovers herself again."
Since then, India’s independence is celebrated on Aug. 15 of every year and festivals occur all over the world with flag raising ceremonies and commemoration programs. In India, the primary event transpires at Red Fort where the incumbent Prime Minister unfolds the flag and is saluted by gun shots.
Furthermore, the skyline of Delhi is transformed into a sky of a thousand kites. As organizers prepare a month in advance, schools take part in festivity preparation, roads and streets are draped in the flag of India and both public and commercial buildings are illuminated.
India Day Celebrations in Toronto
Community dancer performing during India Day in Toronto
Community dancer performing during India Day in Toronto
On Saturday, India Day festivities and a parade took over Yonge-Dundas Square for the entire day. The annual event included a flag hoisting, cultural performances, food vendors and other joyous festivities for the thousands of attendees.
Throughout the afternoon, various community groups put on shows highlighting India’s dance style and musical heritage. The patriotic songs invigorated the crowd and the hosts of the show as many danced to the beat of the drums.
Conservative Member of Parliament Patrick Brown congratulated the festival organizers and thanked everyone on behalf of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He added that Canada and India have expanded trade relations and business will continue to flourish for both sides.
Conservative Member of Parliament Patrick Brown
Conservative Member of Parliament Patrick Brown
Although a missing child was reported – and later found – everyone was in joyous spirits.
“I’m really happy that Toronto embraces the Indian culture,” said Hafiz Sing, a 64-year-old retiree who comes every year with his grandchildren. “The city is so great to Indians everywhere because they allow us to celebrate our homeland with all of these events. It’s a wonderful time for everyone to enjoy.”
He added that he wasn’t born yet when PM Nehru delivered the address, but noted that he still remembers how his parents would talk about it all the time.
“My mom and dad would talk about how our country had many battles and that finally we won our freedom. It was a great moment for our country and Asia.”
Community dancer performing during India Day in Toronto
Community dancer performing during India Day in Toronto
Sikh Protest
Across the street from Yonge-Dundas Square in front of the Eaton Centre, about a dozen Sikhs and members of a civil rights group called Sikhs for Justice protested India Day. The protest called the government of India “undemocratic” and “hypocratic.”
Demonstrators carried signs that wrote: “Stop Burning Churches & Killing Christians in India,” “Sikhs will never forget the attacks made by the Indian army on the Golden Temple and the genocide of the Sikhs in 1984,” and “United Nations should intervene to save lives.”
Prior to Digital Journal’s arrival to the scene, a scuffle between India’s governmental supporters and protestors occurred, according to Demotix News. Toronto police officers appeared and arrested three men who were involved in the fighting.
There were no reports of injuries or deaths.
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