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INOC unfazed by protests over Sonia

india Updated: Sep 11, 2007 12:37 IST
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The Indian National Overseas Congress (INOC) has reacted with indifference to protests planned against Sonia Gandhi representing India at the UN on Oct 2 - Non Violence Day on grounds that she was a "contradiction to Mahatma Gandhi".

India's ruling Congress chief is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly, which has acknowledged Mahatma Gandhi's birthday as International Day of Non-Violence.

"We welcome the protest. Disagreements in a democracy is a healthy sign," said Surinder S Malhotra, president of INOC (US chapter), part of the Congress party, at a press briefing here on Monday. "But they should maintain decorum."

Protests against the visit have been planned by a newly-floated group, Forum for Saving Gandhi Heritage, and several other organisations. They have announced a peaceful demonstration outside the UN building and a relay fast at Mahatma Gandhi's statue at Union Square on Oct 2.

They contend that Sonia Gandhi is not fit to represent India because she was "in thought, word and deed... a direct contradiction to Mahatma Gandhi".

But Malhotra is unfazed and said it was their view.

"We believe Soniaji qualifies because she has spread the message of social harmony in a country of over one billion."

He said 60 prominent community organisations were supporting the reception being hosted by the INOC in Sonia Gandhi's honour. These include Indian American federations, organisations representing regions of India, religion-based groups and cultural institutions.

"The invitees' list of about 3,000 will be largely drawn from these organisations."

The list will be vetted by the US government for security reasons.

The UN General Assembly had declared in June that Mahatma Gandhi's birthday would be observed as Non-Violence Day from this year onwards.