Pindie Dhaliwal, one of the organizers for the Surrey Challo protest for Indian farmers. She says organizers were told by Surrey RCMP that the event was not allowed due to COVID-19. Organizers ended up moving the protest to Strawberry Hill at the last minute. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Pindie Dhaliwal, one of the organizers for the Surrey Challo protest for Indian farmers. She says organizers were told by Surrey RCMP that the event was not allowed due to COVID-19. Organizers ended up moving the protest to Strawberry Hill at the last minute. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Indian farmers rally moves as organizers say Surrey RCMP told them they couldn’t gather

Protest originally planned in Cloverdale, moved to Strawberry Hill

Organizers for Surrey Challo, a protest in support of the farmers in India, are “disappointed” after they say they were “denied” the right to protest, but Surrey RCMP say it was about balancing peoples’ rights and public safety amid COVID-19.

The Surrey Challo event, described as a “drive-in and park” and a “cultural awakening and lively” protest, was planned for the Cloverdale Recreation Centre grounds on Saturday (Jan. 16). Posters for the event listed speeches and performances by about 20 individuals and groups.

Pindie Dhaliwal, one of the organizers of the protest, said organizers were told by Surrey RCMP Saturday (Jan. 16) as they were arriving that the event was not allowed due to COVID-19.

RELATED: Protest in support of Indian farmers planned for Cloverdale, Jan. 15, 2021

Organizers ended up moving the protest to Strawberry Hill at the last minute, with a drive-by past RCMP “E” Division in Green Timbers.

“We’re just being nimble with this. I think we’re not going to give up our fight to protest,” she explained. “That’s one of the things they don’t have in India. We have a lot of democratic rights here in British Columbia and throughout Canada, but to see what’s going on in India, our hearts are on fire right now. To suggest we suppress our voices in Canada, a democratic country, doesn’t sit well with most of us.”

Dhaliwal said the “main source of the frustration” was the RCMP had been consulted along the way, “in various forms.”

However, Surrey RCMP Corporal Joanie Sidhu said the RCMP “respects their constitutional right to protest.”

“For us, it’s not a matter of what the subject matter is, it’s a matter of balancing individuals constitutional rights to protest with public safety and the public health orders because of this pandemic

“Of course if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic, things would be different,” she noted. “It has nothing to do with the subject matter, the people, the organization. It simply comes down to can we take on the risk of COVID spreading to the greater community? In this case, the risk was far too high and we had to step in.”

Sidhu said that if the event had gone on, people would have gone back to their communities, households and workplaces, which then “increases the likelihood of COVID-19 spreading.”

As for the event, Sidhu said RCMP “just didn’t have the same level of cooperation from them that we had in the past. We have supported these protests on, not only for this cause, but many other causes.”

She said police also “receieved information” that there was going to be food vendors and portable restrooms, things “that promote and encourage individuals exiting their vehicles and congregating, so that was the biggest concern with this.”

Dhaliwal pointed to a tweet from Surrey RCMP on Friday afternoon stating “Police are aware of a large public gathering planned” in Cloverdale. The Surrey RCMP tweet added police would be working alongside the City of Surrey bylaw department “to ensure public safety and compliance with health orders. Public health orders are in place to protect our community, and will be enforced.”

Dhaliwal said the protest “wasn’t a gathering,” and that a tweet from Surrey RCMP about a large public gathering was a “bit of a surprise.”

“We’re really disappointed in the actions of the Surrey RCMP today. We had organized a civil and peaceful protest today following COVID measures. Despite our best efforts, the protest was shut down,” Dhaliwal told media in the parking lot outside of the Cineplex in Strawberry Hill.

Dhaliwal pointed out that there have been anti-mask rallies in the Lower Mainland, specifically outside of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

“We ensured that there were COVID measures in place. In fact, we had a rally scheduled a couple of weeks ago and we postponed it to ensure we had additional COVID measures in place.”

Sidhu said that RCMP make assessments on a “case-by-case situation,” and with Saturday’s event there were “too many safety risks in this situation.”

She added a person was given a $2,300-fine for organizing a gathering “contrary to public health orders.”

However, Dhaliwal said there are no plans to stop protesting and bringing awareness to what’s happening in India.

“We will work with authorities, but authorities also need to work with us and need to understand our culture,” she said.

There have been several rallies in Cloverdale since late 2020 to support the farmers in India who are protesting three bills that had been put forward to the country’s central government in September.

RELATED: Thousands take part in second car rally in support, solidarity of farmers in India, Dec. 5, 2020

Moninder Singh, the spokesperson for the B.C. Gurdwaras Council, previously told the Now-Leader there were three bills put forward in India’s central government back in September that would affect “small-time farmers” in India.

“What it essentially does is it takes away something called the MSP, which is the minimum support price that farmers rely on. So depending on how the economy’s going… they have a minimum support price they can rely on that the government will buy their produce and their product at. Once that’s stripped away, they’re left to a free market,” explained Singh.

“In that part of the world, a free market is essentially a death sentence for most of these small-time farmers.”

He added it leaves the farmers “at the power of the larger corporations” who can, with no minimum support price, “lower the prices which they buy at.”

Dhaliwal said one of the points of Saturday’s rally was to talk about Jan. 26, which is Republic Day in India. She added it’s a basically a military day parade “full of pomp and circumstance and pageantry.”

“Why this is important is the military plays a really interesting role in the propaganda machine that is India,” she noted.

“We are Punjabi people and the diaspora has spread rapidly throughout the world. So one of the things that has happened is we have mobilized very quickly because our seeds have spread everywhere in the world. From here in Vancouver to Auckland to Singapore to London, California, we are everywhere. Because of that, we are mobilizing everyone through one single day of action.”

On Jan. 26, Dhaliwal said the plan is to “ask India why.”

“We have asked everyone to ask India ‘Why?’ Ask India why they’re killing us. Ask India why they are oppressing us, why they’re silencing us, why they are persecuting minorities.”

Dhaliwal said for more information to visit askindiawhy.com.



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Lauren on Twitter

Cloverdaleprotestsurrey rcmp

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An officer collects forensic evidence from a police SUV following the July 18, 2015 incident that ended in the police-shooting death of Hudson Brooks in South Surrey. (File photo)
Experts discuss toxicology, use-of-force at inquest into fatal 2015 police shooting in South Surrey

Proceedings could lead to recommendations for preventing similar deaths

Longtime Earl Marriott Secondary rugby coach Adam Roberts said he’s concerned that young athletes are losing motivation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has cancelled high-school sports seasons since last spring. (Janice Croze photo)
COVID-19: Stress, lack of activity a consequence of pandemic

‘There’s nothing really driving’ students right now, says South Surrey rugby coach

Bob Jadis, along with a team of painters and an etch artist, are selling firefly lanterns with 100 per cent of the funds allocated to the Sources South Surrey White Rock Food Bank. (Contributed photo)
Lanterns flying off the shelves as White Rock fundraiser gains momentum

Decorated bottles are on sale for $50, with all of the money donated to the food bank

A proposed multi-family, multi-building development in east White Rock was the subject of a public hearing Monday evening. (City of White Rock image)
Pros and cons of White Rock housing development debated at virtual public hearing

Affordable housing need, traffic concerns among reasons cited for and against Beachway project

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
7 Surrey schools reporting possible COVID-19 exposures; no variants reported overnight

INTERACTIVE TABLE: Search for schools, organize by exposure dates

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon speaks in the B.C. legislature, describing work underway to make a small business and tourism aid package less restrictive, Dec. 10, 2020. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends deadline for tourism, small business COVID-19 grants

Business owners expect months more of lost revenues

Anti-pipeline protests continue in Greater Vancouver, with the latest happening Thursday, March 4 at a Trans Mountain construction site in Burnaby. (Facebook/Laurel Dykstra)
A dozen faith-based protestors blockade Burnaby Trans Mountain site in prayer

The group arrived early Thursday, planning to ‘block any further work’

Mid day at the Vancouver Port Intersection blockade on March 3, organized by the Braided Warriors. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
Anti-pipeline blockade at Vancouver intersection broken up by police

Demonstraters were demanding the release of a fellow anti-TMX protester

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Government of B.C.)
Backcountry skiers are dwarfed by the mountains as they make their way along a mountain ridge near McGillivray Pass Lodge located in the southern Chilcotin Mountains of British Columbia, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. Avalanche Canada has issued a special warning to people who use the backcountry in the mountains of western Alberta and eastern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Avalanche Canada special warning for mountains in western Alberta, eastern B.C.

Avalanche Canada also says everyone in a backcountry party needs essential rescue gear

A recently finished $4.3-million taxiway extension at the Victoria International Airport (not pictured) is unusable because of a blind spot. (Black Press Media file photo)
Blind spot leaves Victoria airport’s new $4.3-million taxiway extension unusable

Solution has been put on hold by COVID-19 pandemic, says airport authority

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Most Read