A two-day Navaratri (an annual Hindu festival) celebration at the International Centre in Mississauga started off on the wrong foot. On Oct. 8, over a dozen Peel Regional Police officers responded to a disturbance call at 8:30 p.m. where an estimated 2,000 people were denied entry to a venue, despite purchasing tickets.
Police reported no injuries or evidence of any criminal offences. “Police arrived and located a large number of people outside. They were cleared from the area without incident,” a police spokesperson said.
“It was terribly crowded. There was only one entry gate,” Parth Patel, who made it into the event centre on Saturday night said. “People waited outside with infants and seniors for hours in the cold,” Patel added, questioning the due diligence of organizers to plan for the safety of attendants.
Video acquired by NCM shows a large crowd of frustrated attendees milling outside the centre looking for an explanation as to why they were denied entry. Many took to social media to express their disapproval.
In a now-deleted Facebook post from Saturday, organizers of the event from Innovative Investors Group Corp. (IIGC) & Maa Ambe Entertainment Inc. (MAEI) claimed they did not prepare for such a large turnout, suggesting sales of ‘duplicate’ tickets as part of the issue.
Today, Tushar Shah, representing MAEI, confirmed to NCM that over 5,000 tickets sold online were refunded on Oct. 9, and organizers continue to refund the purchase of unused physical tickets.
Ticket holders are being asked to fill out a Google form with their serial number and attach pictures of their tickets to determine if the tickets fit within the series registered by the event organizers.
Aditya Gadhvi, a popular Gujarati artist with a big fanbase in Canada, performed on Saturday night, but upon hearing about the chaos outside refused to perform the next day.
“I did not want anyone to be injured,” Gadhvi said over the phone. “People had already faced troubles on the 8th, I did not want them to experience that again on the 9th,” he added.
Taking a break from performing on the night of Oct. 8, Gadhvi said he spoke with organizers backstage to persuade them to refund anyone who wasn’t allowed to attend. “I don’t want anyone to have a bad experience at my show,” Gadhvi said.
Gadhvi apologized to his Canadian Gujarati fan base on social media for backing out of the second performance., but later deleted this post on Instagram. “I did not want anything negative on my social media,” he explained.
Tickets for the event were sold online through host sites like Eventbrite and Sulekha, while physical tickets were sold at community centres and local shops about a month and a half before the Thanksgiving weekend.
New Canadian Media is monitoring two WhatsApp groups organized to refund ticket holders who were denied entry. Each group has approximately 800 members.
Gujarati-Canadians arrived from across Ontario and some from as far as New Brunswick, mainly to dance the “garba,” a dance performed during religious and social events, originating from Gujarat, India. As of 2021, there are over 100, 000 Gujarati-speakers living in Canada, with a 70 per cent majority of that population residing in Ontario, according to Statistics Canada.
The exhibition hall rented for the weekend celebration has a maximum capacity of 9,000 people. Tickets sold for $30.
In response to allegations of overselling, Shah said that serial numbers on printed tickets did not start at zero, and that there were gaps in the numbers during printing. Due to the confidentiality of the ongoing efforts to refund tickets, Shah was unable to release the total number printed tickets.
As of now, NCM can confirm that refunds are being processed. Shah added that anyone who purchased tickets from buyers over the original price will only receive the original sale price.
Additional reporting by Kaitlyn Smith
Publisher’s note: This reporting has been updated to reflect a correction from the Peel Police spokesperson: “They were cleared from the area without incident.”
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