Image via Unsplash
Image via Unsplash
On Sunday, 27 October 2019, a Diwali celebration in Pretoria was disturbed when a man allegedly harassed attendees by calling them by racial slurs.
The apparent altercation occurred in a complex close to the Union Buildings. According to IOL, the building was “just a stone’s throw away from President Cyril Ramapahosa’s official residence.”
Approximately 60 people were in attendance of the Diwali celebrations. The group mainly consisted of expats who are working in South Africa and foreign diplomatic staff from countries around the world.
One of the organisers of the event was Pradeep Ramlall who gave insight on the incident. Ramlall revealed that they started with their Diwali firecracker display just after half past seven on Sunday night.
According to the organiser, a man ran up to them and reportedly started hurling racial slurs at the guests. Ramlall said:
“He said we were c*****s and k*****s and that we must go back to India.”Pradeep Ramlall
The Diwali event organiser also shared how some of the “white people and their children” were very scared and chose to leave the celebration. The unnamed man allegedly also tried to push Ramlall’s wife Rekha.
The man attempted to assault her brother, famous lawyer Ajay Sooklal. During the altercation, the man allegedly shoved his finger into Sooklal’s face.
Rekha revealed that she had to jump between the two men to prevent a violent break out. Ramlall gave a description of their assailant saying:
“He was a big-sized guy like a rugby player. He came and crushed all our fireworks.”Pradeep Ramlall
His wife reportedly tried to get the complex’s security guard to come and intervene but was unsuccessful. The guard only came to the scene when Rekha’s 84-year-old mother walked to the gate where the security sat and persuaded him.
Rekha also stated how when the man left he continued using abusive language. The assailant allegedly called her son, Doctor Aryesh Ramlall, the “k-word.”
Rekha noted the whole thing as an “unfortunate incident.” She shared how they had taken precautionary measures by circulating flyers ahead of the event to alert other residents of the Diwali celebrations.
The complex’s supervisor also went ahead and alerted all the tenants about the event.
The president of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha (Sadhms), Ashwin Trikamjee, said there were still people who didn’t understand what the festival was all about. The misunderstanding occurred despite the pre-Diwali education drive that they gave.
Speaking about Sunday’s incident and the man involved, Trikamjee said:
“He must be charged criminally and go to jail.”Ashwin Trikamjee, President of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha (Sadhms)
Diwali, Deepawali or Dipavali is the Hindu festival of lights. It symbolises the spiritual “victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.”