NEW YORK CITY, NY (TIP): The 27th Sikh Day Parade in New York, the largest gathering of the Sikhs at an event on the East Coast, on April 26, 2014, proved out to be historic because of the participation of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
It was for the first time that Mayor of New York City participated in the 27 year old Sikh Day Parade. His participation is to be seen as recognition of the growing power of the Sikh community in this region. Bill de Blasio joined the parade a little after it started and stayed for a while on a float carrying the organizers and the TV crew covering the parade.
In his brief remarks, whereas he congratulated the Sikhs on their day of creation, he was eloquent in praising the community as hard working. He said the community had greatly contributed to the growth of New York. The community leaders were obviously thrilled and excited to have the Mayor. Mr. Gurdev Singh Kang, President,Gurdwara Sikh Cultural Society, who honored the Mayor with a plaque, on behalf of the organizers of the Parade and the Sikhs of the Tri-States of New York, New Jersey & Connecticut, spoke highly of the Mayor’s concern for all New Yorkers.
Panj Piaras lead the Parade
He appreciated Mr. de Blasio for keeping his word and described him as a great friend of the Sikh community. The Parade that started around 1 P.M. from 37th Street on Madison Avenue, took over 2 hours to reach its termination point on 25th Street on Madison Avenue. The Parade was led by the Panj Piaras (The Five Beloveds, the first five who were ordained as Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh).
Behind them was the float carrying the Living Master of the Sikhs, the Sikh Scripture-Shri Guru Granth Sahib, with priests in attendance and the Raagis doing kirtan (bards singing the holy hymns). Behind the float marched men, women and children. There were a number of floats depicting history and culture of the Sikhs. Dozens of Sikh organizations and institutions had their groups marching in the Parade, carrying banners, placards and small Khalsa flags and either reciting Gurbani or raising slogans in praise of God Almighty and the Sikh Religion.
The Sikh Cultural Society contingent
The Mid-Town Manhattan Madison Avenue appeared to have been invaded by Kesari (Saffron) color. Most men wore Kesari turbans. Most women had Kesari dupatta (head covering) while kids had Kesari Patkas and turbans. A sea of humanity, over 50,000, according to the organizers, marched in the Parade. Then there were milling crowds, eager to watch the grandeur of the Parade, on either side of Madison Avenue, all along the route of the Parade. It was a sight that must have got embedded in the memory of people.
Sikh martial arts in the form of Gatka drew attention of the bystanders watching the Parade on a fine day. A Sikh conference followed the Parade. A stage was set up for the conference from which Sikh leaders and the local politicians addressed the gathering. Amongst the political leaders and officials who greeted the Sikhs on the Sikh Day were a former Comptroller of New York City, John Liu who is a great friend of the community, Public Advocate Letitia James and Assemblyman David Weprin. Dr. Amarjit Singh, the Khalistan ideologue, made a comeback after 3 yearlong banishment.
Dr. Amarjit Singh, the Khalistan ideologue, addresses the gathering, flanked by organizers of the Parade
His competitors Dr. G. S. Auluck and Dr. Paramjit Singh Ajarawat had succeeded in keeping Dr. Singh out for more than 3 years. However, Dr. Amarjit Singh seems to have turned the tables on them and succeeded in pushing them out. The two were not seen at the parade this year. Dr. Singh made a scathing attack on the government of India, accusing it of discrimination against Sikhs, denying them their rights, and carrying out the community’s systematic “genocide”.
He spoke at length of the killings of thousands of youth during the struggle for Khalistan initiated by Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the Operation Bluestar and the “genocide” of the Sikhs in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Amid Khalistani slogans raised by his Sikh Youth of America volunteers and the attending gathering, Dr. Singh declared that Khalistan is a realty; it is only a question of time that the Sikhs will have a sovereign Khalistan. Among others from the community who spoke briefly, included Gurdev Singh Kang, President of the Sikh Cultural Society, the organizers of the Parade, who extended a word of welcome and recognized the guest speakers.
A view of the gathering
TIP reporters who spoke to a cross section of people participating in the parade, found them praising the arrangements and the control of the Parade. Many praised, in particular, the langar arrangements. Only a small number complained that water supplies were not adequate, en route the Parade. All in all, the 27th Sikh Day Parade was being viewed as one of the best in the history of the Sikh Day Parade.