Border tragedy: community mourns family
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/01/2022 (416 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Gujarati community in Winnipeg prayed at an online vigil Saturday for the Indian family of four who froze to death last week trying to cross the border from Canada to the United States.
Dignitaries sent their condolences, while Bhadresh Bhatt conducted the solemn ceremony.
He sang prayers for the family lost in a freezing farmer’s field.
“Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti,” he told the mourners, who replied back with the same invocation of peace in the online video call platform’s chat.
The village of Dingucha in the western state of Gujarat is mourning the loss of the Patel family — Jagdish Baldevbhai Patel, 39; his wife, Vaishaliben Jagdishkumar Patel, 37; their daughter, Vihangi 11; and three-year-old son, Dharmik.
The community shut down Saturday to pay respects to the family who died on the frozen prairie half a world away.
The Winnipeg vigil, organized by the Gurajati Cultural Society of Manitoba, lasted about 45 minutes, with prayers sang by three.
An elderly woman took over from Bhatt, clapping between her sung prayers.
“Our community has been shaken for the last couple of weeks,” Kirit Thakrar of the Hindu Society of Manitoba told the vigil.
“This is a very difficult loss for all of us.”
A man on the U.S. side of the border was arrested and charged with human smuggling. U.S. officials allege he is part of an organized human-smuggling enterprise.
U.S. court documents allege Steve Shand of Deltona, Fla., was driving a van with two Indian nationals just south of the border on Jan. 19.
The documents say five others from India were spotted soon after in the snow walking in the direction of the van. They told border officers that they had been walking for more than 11 hours in the freezing cold and that four others had become separated from the group overnight.
One man in the group also said he had paid a large amount of money to get a fake student visa in Canada and was expecting a ride to a relative’s home in Chicago after he crossed the border, the documents say.
— with files from the Canadian Press
Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.