Phagwah Parade is back for 2016

By Sadef Ali Kully

After the Phagwah Parade was canceled last year for the first time in 27 years due to disputes within the Hindu Parades & Festivals Committee, another nonprofit organization announced at a press conference in Richmond Hill that the event will be in full swing, rain or shine, this March.

The parade is scheduled to be held March 26 at 12 p.m., beginning at 133rd Street and Liberty Avenue, and ending at Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto Park at 125th Street and Atlantic Avenue, where hundreds will throw colorful powder to celebrate the rites of spring. The formation for the parade will begin at 10 a.m.

The Federation of Hindu Mandirs Inc. received the permit from the city to hold the parade.

Last year, the Hindu Parades & Festivals Committee had its parade permit canceled by the NYPD after internal disputes within the group could not be settled through community and/or court mediation. The Hindu Parades faction had made accusations against the Federation of Hindu Mandirs and the NYPD.

The Hindu Parades and the Federation both applied for permits on the same day last year, but the HPFC had its permit pulled despite having applied for it first, according to HFPC members. HPFC spokesman Roy Singh said in an interview that the NYPD canceled Hindu Parades’ permit so that the Federation could have it.

HFPC’s civil suit against the NYPD and the Federation kept any organization from holding the parade, the first time it had not taken place since 1988. It was a heavy blow to the Hindu community in and outside Richmond Hill, who look forward every year to marking one of the major holidays in the Hindu and Sikh religions.

“The parade will be the parade. People in Richmond Hill want the parade, even people in the Bronx want the parade,” Naidoo Veerapen, general secretary of the Federation of Hindu Mandirs Inc., said at this week’s press conference.

Veerapen said the Federation of Hindu Mandirs Inc., which has operated in the community for 30 years, expects thousands of people to attend, including members of various temples in the city. Religious dances, colorful floats and famous singers from the West Indian and Caribbean communities in Queens and around the world are part of the celebration..

Veerapen said he did not want to address last year’s conflict that led to the cancellation of the parade and wanted to move forward.

The HFPC filed a civil lawsuit last year in Queens Supreme Court against the NYPD and the Federation of Hindu Mandirs Inc., for canceling the Hindu Parades’ permit.

“We have secured a permit with the NYPD and that gives us the authority to organize the parade,” Veerapen told the press conference.

On Wednesday morning, Veerapen said aQueens Supreme Court judge had issued a restraining barring both factions from advertising any Phagwah parade related-events.

Neither side had a response to the restraining order by press time.

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skully@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.

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