Indian American State Lawmakers Join GOPIO’s Northeastern Chapters to Celebrate India’s 73rd Republic Day
India-West Staff Reporter
NEW YORK, NY – Hundreds of Indian Americans representing GOPIO New York, GOPIO Manhattan, GOPIO-CT, GOPIO-Central Jersey and other community organization in a show of unity came together to celebrate India’s 73rd Republic Day virtually on Jan.26, paying rich tributes to their motherland, India.
In his talk, India’s consul general in New York, Randhir Kumar Jaiswal, a career diplomat with over two decades of diplomatic career, stated that celebrating India’s Republic Day is special each year, but this year it was more so because it is the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence, “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.” Referring to the several elected Indian American leaders who attended the event, Jaiswal said, “Your presence and greetings mean a lot to us and to the Indian Diaspora and to the Indo-US relationship.”
Jaiswal said, “The Indian Diaspora is playing a very important role in the cooperation between India and the United States in all areas, especially in the healthcare sector. Covid is one area where scientists from India and the United States are collaborating in developing vaccines and medicines.”
Neil Makhija, executive president of Impact spoke about how they work towards helping NRIs get elected to state and national offices. “Our goal is to increase the representation of Indian Americans in all states,” he said. “Across the country, a record number of Indian-Americans have been elected to the state and national offices. I am thrilled to be where we are today.” He went onto introducing each of the elected officials who had joined the celebrations.
New Jersey state senator Vin Gopal recalled his visit with New Jersey governor Phil Murphy to several states in India, meeting with several chief ministers and building relationships collaborating in several areas between India and New Jersey, which now has the fastest growing Indian American community in the US. He proudly stated about how his state has passed legislation including Asian American history in the school curriculum teaching Indian history to school children. Referring to his frequent trips to India to meet with his grandparents, the young senator said, “I am inspired by the values taught by family, which we carry them in our lives.”
Vermont state senator Kesha Ram shared reasons for her entering politics. “I got engaged with the community for long, where we care for each other.” One of the youngest ever to be elected to State Assembly at the age of 21, she said, “I am the first ever woman of color to be elected to the state Assembly in Vermont. Continuing to break through the barriers, we can work together to elect more NRIs. It’s incredible to be of public service, following in the footsteps of my great grandfathers,” she said, referring to her family who had fought for the freedom for India.
Ohio state senator Niraj Antani said, “Freedom is rare and needs to be upheld and protected. I work hard to reach across the aisle and cooperate with people in both the parties to legislate.” Sharing his early days and inspiration to enter politics, he said, “My parents worked hard to live the American dream. There is a need for us to be at the decision-making table.”
New Jersey state rep. Raj Mukerji pointed to how Indian American political caucuses are growing across the nation and in several states. In his state the Indian American representation in state offices has grown from one to seven. “That’s the way it should be. I am proud of all that GOPIO has contributed socially and financially to make this happen. I am proud of the contributions of the Indian Diaspora, who are in the front lines of global healthcare.”
NY state rep. Jenifer Rajkumar said, “Indian identity is central to my election to the state assembly in New York. I stand on your shoulders as GOPIO has played a great role in helping me get elected to the State Assembly.” Referring to the record three Indian Americans elected to the state, she said, “We made history and I want to thank the community leaders who have made this possible.” Rajkumar shared with the audience as to how growing up in a family that emphasized the teachings of Gandhian principles has helped her to appreciate diversity, justice and equality for all. She referred to the Bills she has introduced in the Assembly to celebrate Punjabi culture and declaring and October as Hindu heritage month as well as to celebrate India’s Independence Day.
Inspired by Gandhiji’s message of non-violence, which Martin Luther and late Rep. John Lewis had imbibed in their public life, New Hampshire state rep. Latha Mangipudi, said, “I am a woman, brown, first generation Indian and very vocal in expressing my views.” Stating that she has introduced traditional health systems of India including Ayurveda in NH, she thanked the Indian consulate which has “worked with us to enhance awareness on India and its diverse culture and democratic values.”
Connecticut state rep. Harry Arora said, “We know how powerful it is to have set up of laws and rules of laws, the power of a country comes from a beautifully written constitution which was adopted on that day and the fact that we have lived with that beautifully so many years with that constitution in India, which works.”
GOPIO chairman, Dr. Thomas Abraham in his introductory remarks said, “Although we started with almost nothing, in 75 years, India made progress under democratic rule and is now moving forward to become the third largest economy in the world. As we celebrate 73rd Republic Day of India, let us rededicate ourselves to the cause of democracy, freedom, justice, and peace not only in India but all over the world.”
GOPIO members, he said, have been in the forefront, contributing to the larger community here in the United States and towards supporting various initiatives back home in India, especially during the Covid pandemic. “We sent oxygen concentrators to India last year when the pandemic was at its peak. Many GOPIO chapters continue to serve the local communities in different countries by donating and serving food to the homeless and needy and replenishing and providing cash to the food pantries which serve the homeless and needy families.” He urged members of the community to join GOPIO.
Dr. Jaya Daptardar eloquently emceed the event. The American national anthem was sung by Mathy Pillai and the Indian national anthem by Jyothi Gupta and team from Long Island, NY. Popular artists from NJ and CTt, including Pallavi Belwariar, Kedar Godbole, Srinivas Gunupuru and Trupti Shah presented popular evergreen patriotic songs.
Prominent among those in attendance were GOPIO vice president Ram Gadhavi who is also the chair of Gujarat Literary Academy of North America; Lal Motwani, GOPIO foundation executive trustee; Dr. Asha Samant, GOPIO international coordinator-atlLarge; and several GOPIO Chapter Presidents, including, NY’s Beena Kothari; Manhattan’s Shivender Sofat; CT’s Ashok Nichani; and Central Jersey’s Kunal Mehta; and Rockland County Legislator Anney Paul.
Co-sponsoring organizations and their leadership who had attended the event included: president of the National Federation of Indian American Association Lavanya Reddy from Seattle and secretary Ashok Patnaik from Los Angeles; Gunja Rastogi, president of National Indian American Association for Senior Citizens; Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan executive director Sudhir Vaishnav; Indo-American Senior Citizen Center of New York president Mukund Mehta; Jiwan Jyoti chairman Suresh Arya from Rockland County; Jhilmil president Anoop Bhargava from NJ; Milan Cultural Association president Suresh Sharma from CT; Kerala Center president Alex Esthappan from NY; National AIA president Gobind Munjal and India Association of Long Island president Bina Sabapathi.