Brampton’s Carabram courts controversy over Punjab pavilion

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Celebrating cultural traditions in the right spirit

When the news of a Punjab pavilion at Brampton’s multicultural festival Carabram hit the streets, it ruffled a few feathers.

The Indian pavilion, which has been part of Carabram for years, has done an adequate job of promoting the culture of the country of which Punjab is a part of, so why stir the pot now, some critics argued.

A Punjabi-focused venue was driven by a need to showcase art, music and cuisine of Punjab without having to jostle for time and space with dozens of other groups from India and doesn’t have any hidden political agenda, explained Pritpal Chagger, chair, Punjab pavilion.

Carabram runs from Friday, July 14 -16 across multiple locations in Brampton.

Chagger, who’s the president of Heartland Creditview Community and Health Services, member of the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce, as well as half-a-dozen social and business organizations in Brampton and Mississauga, said he fully understands why the optics of a Punjab pavilion would have caused concern here in Peel where the movement for a Sikh state of Khalistan has many supporters.

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“I am an Indian and a proud Canadian,” Chagger told The Guardian. “I am not a Khalistani. I believe in unity and peace. The Punjabi culture is rich and vast and we felt we were not able to show the breadth and depth of its richness and that’s why decided to dedicate an entire pavilion.”

Visitors to the Punjab pavilion will sample culture, cuisine and entertainment and celebrate literacy with essay contests and a book launch, he said.

Controversy over pavilions is not new for Brampton’s multicultural festival. In 2013, Carabram courted criticism for its Ealam (Tamil) pavilion.

At that time, Mahinda Gunasekera, honorary president of the Sri Lanka United National Association of Canada, wrote a scathing letter to the Carabram board.

In his missive, Gunasekera urged the board not to legitimize the word “Ealam” by allocating a pavilion to the Canadian-Tamils. He suggested a compromise. Why not call it “Sri Lankan Tamil pavilion,” he wrote. That didn’t happen.

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During its early years, Carabram’s pavilions were named after countries. That has now changed, explained Angela Johnson, president, Carabram.

“We celebrate cultures, not countries,” she said. “I know people have been asking why are you having a Punjab pavilion when there’s an Indian one. I think India’s big enough and diverse enough that we can have the two together.”

“When we first started Carabram, we celebrated countries, but we have found out over the years there are different aspects of a country, so if someone is willing to celebrate a different culture, why not? We’re giving people a wholesome experience,” she continued.

Cost of ticket/passport is $10/person (until July 14) and $12 during the event. Tickets can be purchased online or from many of city’s recreational centres.

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