The recent devastating floods in the South Indian state of Kerala were on everyone's mind at an event hosted by Vancouver Malayalee Samamjam.
Held today at North Delta secondary school, the annual celebration brings South Indian Hindus and Muslims together in a spirit of love and brotherhood to commemorate major holidays for both religions: Onam and Eid.
But the placid mood in the school's gymnasium was interrupted by the Indian deputy consul-general after a spokesperson for Indians Abroad for Pluralist India, Gurpreet Singh, began speaking.
Singh (also a Georgia Straight contributor) was invited up on the stage by the group's founder and president, Sahib Meera. Singh was planning to bring other members of his group on-stage to present an envelope containing $1,375, which would go to aid flood victims in Kerala.
He began by praising Meera's group for hosting the event before mentioning that "the idea of India is really under stress right now under a right-wing Hindutva government".
Back in India, the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come under fire for not doing enough for the flood victims—and for turning a blind eye to extremist Hindu groups that persecute Christians and Muslims.
On social media, some Hindu extremists have said that Kerala deserved the flooding because it's home to so many "beef eaters", whom they loathe.
Singh went on to describe the national government's actions in response to the flooding in Kerala as "very unfortunate".
That's when, from the middle of the stage, deputy Indian consul-general H. Venkatachalam started shouting at Singh to "stop, stop".
The organizer, Meera, then approached Singh and also asked him not to talk this way.
The cofounder of Indians for Pluralist India then looked right at the Indian diplomat and said: "I'm speaking my mind."
Venkatachalam, who's been in Canada for two months, responded that he was going to leave the event, and started walking off the stage.
Meera then asked the diplomat to stay.
Singh's microphone was then turned off, at which point he and five other members of Indians for Pluralist India left the gathering.
In the hallway, they gave the envelope containing the donation to Meera's wife.
Outside the event, Singh said that his group "stands for the real idea of India, which is about diversity and pluralism".
"We wanted to show solidarity with the people of Kerala," Singh added. "These people, Malalyam Samajam people, they are doing great work by celebrating Onam and Eid together. Sometimes they do it in a church.
"So they are trying to keep that idea of India alive, which is under attack—constant attack—from the Hindutva right."