By Sadef Ali Kully
The Hindu Parades & Festival Committee said it has decided to pursue a civil case against the NYPD for suddenly canceling the annual Phagwah Parade days before the event, a 27-year tradition in Richmond Hill, after their parade permit was approved by the Police Department.
The parade organizers clashed when disputes between current and former members of the Hindu Parades & Festivals Committee led to two permits being filed for same March 8 parade date.
“At the end, not only did both parties suffer – we all suffered here. We have decided to take the higher road. We decided not to take the other side to court, but to take the NYPD to court,” said Roy Singh, the current president of the Hindu Parades & Festivals Committee.“They have to show cause as to why they canceled the permit when it was already approved.”
Singh said that he received an email confirmation of the parade permit from the NYPD, which he could not share with the Timesledger due to legal reasons. Then he was called to the 106th Precinct where a rival group, the United Federation of Hindu Mandirs and expelled committee member Rishi Misir, asked him to put his name on their parade permit application. Singh refused, saying his Hindu Parades & Festivals Committee already had the permit to have the parade.
Singh said a Civil Court hearing in Queens was scheduled to be held this Thursday to review the permit cancellation by a judge, which will determine whether a small parade or community celebration might happen this weekend.
“Our permit was already approved by the NYPD and then they call me to come to the 106th – it doesn’t work that way,” Singh said.
The United Federation of Hindu Mandirs could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts over the past few days.
The dispute between the Hindu Festivals & Parade Committee and the United Federation of Hindu Mandirs is etched in a vicious blame-game and a power struggle that could baffle the Hindu gods.
“Last year, we told them to work things out and from an outsider’s perspective this is not about them – this is about people coming together from all cultures, learning and celebrating, with another culture. It is such a sad situation,” said Detective Kenneth Zorn, the106th Precinct’s community affairs office and a Queens resident who has worked in the community for 20 years.
The Hindu Parades website, where filed court documents against Misir are posted, claimed that Misir and two other former committee members, Romeo Hitlall and Naidoo Verapen, were trying to use the HPFC name without consent along with other allegations claiming Misir is misusing his title as president.
“He thinks he is still part of the committee and turns up at the precinct for meetings sometimes. He doesn’t show up at the other venues because we don’t tell him where it is because we expelled him,” Singh said.
In its case filed in Queens Supreme Court, the Hindu Parades group asked for an injunction against Misri, Hitlall and Veraen from using the name of their committee, which the court granted. In other action, Misir asked the court to order the Hindu Parades committee to hold elections for board of directors, which the judge denied. The ruling said “the court petitioner has failed to provide any competent evidence to demonstrate that he is a member of the respondent corporation or has the authority to act on behalf of members of the respondent corporation.”
Misir did not respond to repeated requests from the Timesledger to comment on the Hindu Parades’ allegations.
“[The Deputy-Inspector] has no idea what he has done by taking away this parade from the Hindu community. People came from Florida, California, and Pennsylvania to attend this parade,” said Singh. “They booked hotels and took days off from their jobs.”
The Hindu Parades committee has also decided to file a complaint about the cancellation with the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, according to Singh.
Contributed reporting by Kimberly Jacobs
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull