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Protests in Toronto over Durga's photo

By Ajit Jain in Toronto
Last updated on: October 22, 2003 19:23 IST
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Over 300 Indo-Canadians, carrying placards and shouting slogans like "give respect, get respect", "we want apology", gathered in front of the Toronto Star building in downtown Toronto on Saturday.

Led by leaders like Labhamal Sabharwal, president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (Canada), Narendar Bhalla, president of Overseas Friends of BJP (Canada), Anil Sarangi, a spokeswoman of the VHP who also produces a radio program called 'Radio India', they were protesting against the publication of a nude photo of Goddess Durga along with an article on Durga Puja in their issue of October 4.

Durga is never portrayed naked and by publishing such a photo the daily has debased Hindus, they said.

They demanded a front-page apology from the Toronto Star.

At one point there was an argument between Toronto Star security officers and the demonstrators.

One female security officer was heard shouting, "Get off my property as you are trespassing."

Some of the demonstrators disregarded the security and decided to stay put.

At that point over half a dozen police officers appeared on the scene, obviously following a complaint from the Toronto Star, to ensure there was no trespassing.

"It is a peaceful demonstration," Inderkant Patel, an active member of the VHP and Sanatan Mandir in suburban Markham, assured the police. "We are not here to cause any problem but we have every right to ask the Star to offer an apology for the offending photo and article they have published against our religion."

The demonstrators demanded to see the manager of the Toronto Star to give him a memorandum.

Venkat Nagarajan of IndiaCause, who is actively lobbying against the article, said they would mail the memorandum to the paper.

The memorandum says it was an "entirely inaccurate and misleading depiction of the goddess".

Copies of the memorandum are being circulated in temples for obtaining hundreds of signatures before it is mailed to the Toronto Star, Nagarajan said.

Some Sikh leaders also joined the Hindu demonstrators.

"Today they are defaming the Hindus. Tomorrow it would be Sikhs and then the Muslims," a Sikh said.

The Toronto Star has published 4-paragraph report on the demonstration in the October 19 issue. In it the paper has argued that it asked some Hindu leaders who said that "the picture did not offend them".

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Ajit Jain in Toronto