Dr. Romesh K Japra, Founder and Chairman of the Festival of Globe denies there was a permit issue that led to the cancelation of this year’s annual historic parade held for the past 27 years in Fremont, California to honor India’s Independence Day.
The parade and mela (fair) hosted by the Festival of India (also known as the Festival of Globe) that used to attract hundreds of thousands of Indian Americans from across the San Francisco Bay Area was less than thriving on Sunday, Aug, 18th. Paseo Padre Pkwy, the road which holds the parade which in previous years has been crowded was silent with no marching floats representing the rich Indian culture. Even the fairground looked less crowded than past years and a few booths looked deserted and so do the food stalls.
Even the grand marshal Bollywood star Vivek Oberoi missed the parade’s excitement.
Kim Petersen, Chief of Police in the city of Fremont said, “Yes, due to missed deadlines in the permitting process, we were unable to provide proper security. Obviously, with the current climate, we could not accept less than a full security compliment.”
Dr. Japra on the cancelation of the parade, told indica, “What permit problem? It’s nonsense. We were told it’s because of a security concern. I am not afraid but once they say it is a security concern we have to listen.”
“They are not telling us exactly why they canceled,” said Dr. Japra, sounding disappointed with the city’s decision.
“We applied for both for the festival as well as the parade, they said you can do the festival but not the parade for security reasons,” he said.
“I am shocked and have been working to make it work until the last day (Aug, 16th), but unfortunately we could not,” he said.
When asked what kind of security concern, Dr. Japra said that with the mass shootings going on they are concerned. “It’s sad, we are resilient and we will do bigger and better next year.”
Dr. Japra agreed during the parade, as the Khalistan Sikh advocates come to protest, “We had protesters in the past and there was a concern of more protesters in the city. I don’t want to put the public in danger.”
To offer extra security FOG had hired security personal, 20 each for two days along with the support from the city of Fremont police officers.
Dr. Japra, who was trying his best to engage with attendees at the parade said, “We are resilient and will keep celebrating Democracy, which is very important.”
He said he wants the whole world to become democratic. Just like America is the oldest democracy and India is the largest Democratic country, this message has to go to the rest of the world. It’s happening in Hong Kong, Africa, the Middle East, even in mainland China.
“The movement is coming up and everybody wants to be free liberated and have this freedom everywhere and that is the message we are trying to spread,” he said.
“Terrorism, whether it’s national or international we want to curb that. We want to bring peace and make sure it comes only through celebration, building [empowering, and sharing] with communities,” said Dr. Japra.
Grand Marshal, Vivek Oberoi, told indica on missing of the parade, “Of course, it would have been lovely to have it but what is more important is people are safe.”
“And in light of the recent shooting, I think it’s better to be safe than be sorry,” said Oberoi who also visited and met Google management for some collaboration in the non-profit space.
Oberoi humbly said he has been enjoying this experience and the desi fans giving so much love.
“I think we are the country that top the world on Ahimsa, and for thousands of years India has been a beacon of peace and non-violence and I think that is something we can teach even the people here [in the US[ who have hate in their hearts, to love and to [be accepting]. That is how India has been so successful,” said Oberoi.
Vinnie Bacon, Councilmember-at-large and running for Alameda County’s Board of Supervisors in District 1 and the city of Fremont, on the cancelation of the parade told indica, “It’s hard for me to say what is needed more and to make the event safe. But unfortunately, the chief of police did feel there was a safety issue.”
“It’s sad days when we do have an event like this… we just had the Gilroy shooting so we have to be more diligent and we have to make sure that every event we have in our town is absolutely safe. If the chief has concerns, we have to honor that.”