Indian associations in the US are gearing up to organise cultural festivals to mark the historic occasion
By Dr Suparna Soni
The Indian diaspora in the United States is gearing up to celebrate the 75th Independence Day of India. While India is considered the largest democracy, the United States is known as the most established democracy globally. Moreover, both nations adhere to the principles of judicial independence. Indians constitute one of the world’s largest, most dynamic, and oldest diaspora communities. The Indian diaspora here mingles with people from across the world, including Caucasians, African Americans, and Hispanics. Astonishingly, almost every American (and people from across the globe) wishes to travel to India at least once. What makes India so special, unique, and appealing?
India is known for its diversity in culture, religion, language, food, and dress. Moreover, the tourist places such as the Taj Mahal in Agra, Kashmir, Kerala, Goa, Assam hold great attraction for Americans. Additionally, Hindi film songs and dances are also very popular.
In addition to the cultural and religious diversity, the most crucial feature that makes India unique is its democratic government, secularism, and independent judiciary. For example, the Indian Supreme Court’s seemingly liberal recent verdicts on gay sex (striking down the long-standing ban on gay sex) and adultery (canceling the colonial-era law that made adultery illegal) were very promising. Thus, the Court verdicts reorder sexual mores, advance gender equality, and bring positive social change, making the Indian diaspora proud.
However, while Indian culture, democratic institutions, and respect for human rights put India and the Indian diaspora on a higher pedestal, any incident inconsistent with these principles affects the diaspora the most. For example, economic disparities, widespread poverty, the vulnerability of internal migrants during the COVID-19 crisis are some of the issues, which often put the Indian diaspora in an uncomfortable situation. Therefore, the Indian community expects that the Government will give special attention to these issues, reaffirm its democratic and humanitarian principles, and make the Indian diaspora proud of its country of origin.
Generally, the Indian diaspora feels excellent about how India has evolved over 75 years in the economic, social, and political spheres. As India has a diverse culture, the Indian diaspora is equally diverse and includes multiple associations representing the diversity of the Indian sub-continent. Thousands of Indians are getting ready across the United States to proudly celebrate India’s 75th Independence Day with the Tricolor fluttering high and singing the national anthem and patriotic songs.
For example, the Council of Heritage and Arts of India (CHAI), a local organization in western New York, believes that culture plays a vital role in developing any nation while representing a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices. Moreover, India has one of the world’s largest collections of songs, music, dance, theatre, folk traditions, performing arts, rites and rituals, paintings, and writings known as humanity’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. CHAI aims to preserve these elements of the cultural heritage locally here in western New York. CHAI is planning to celebrate the festival at the Mahatma Gandhi Monument in the town of Amherst. CHAI, a firm believer in preserving art and culture and passing on these to future generations, is expecting a vast presence of community members and various elected officials from different levels of Government. This year they will be celebrating Independence Day by flag-hoisting and with a picnic. Along with this, CHAI has also showcased Indian art and culture at a local Senior Center and reinforced learning about India and Indian culture for the people of this community. In the past, CHAI worked with the New York State Government and lit up Niagara Falls in the colors of the Tricolor to commemorate Indian independence. CHAI also has hoisted the Indian flag in the Townhall for India’s Republic Day in the past.
Another organisation, India Association of Buffalo (IAB), which unites all Indian diaspora in this region, is all set to celebrate the 75th Indian Independence Day. Team IAB
cordially invites everybody from the community to “COME ONBOARD” to celebrate the Festival of India. This year, IAB takes this event from Canal-side to On the Canal. People are encouraged to join and enjoy the picturesque Lockport Locks cruise on Lake Erie, followed by the commemoration of the Independence Day of India through cultural performances, free food, and other fun activities in the adjoining picnic area. The event is open to all IAB members as well as non-members.
Thus, given that India is celebrating the 75th year of India’s independence as Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, the Indian diaspora in the United States is celebrating it with equal enthusiasm and pride. India was, is, and remains a great country and a role model for the global community. Therefore, the Indian diaspora feels proud and celebrates the 75th Independence Day of the Indian nation with great zeal.
The author is Assistant Professor,
Department of Political Science & Public Administration, State University of New York
(SUNY), Buffalo state.