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Recap: Republic Day in Washington

Notable local and international guests along with cultural performances marked India's 57th Republic Day in the US capitol.

india Updated: Feb 01, 2006 12:54 IST

A large crowd gathered on the evening of January 28th. Invitees were greeted and seated, the national anthems of India and the United States were sung, inspiring speeches were delivered, and cultural events performed to a rousing applause from an enthusiastic audience.

All of this happened in a high school in Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA, with a gathered audience of Indian-Americans and supporters of the Indian community to celebrate the 57th Republic Day of India.

The cultural program began with a performance of the dresses and dance forms of the Indian states. This was followed by an entertaining medley of Indian songs - classic and popular - performed by brightly-attired young artists.

A bamboo dance by the Mizoram Association showcased the dexterity needed to perform an Indian dance form. Other performances included leaf music, a Bharatnatyam Shiva Shakti performance by two fifteen-year-old girls, and a solo performance of a song from the movie Lamhe.

The formal program began with an address of welcome by Dr. Nagender Madavaram, President of Nation Council of Asian Indian Associations (NCAIA), which organized the event. Dr. Madavaram praised the vision of the founding fathers of the Indian Constitution, Indian democracy, and uninterrupted representative government for the last 56 years.

Dr. Madavaram spoke of India's unique place in world democratic systems because it has elected four presidents from minority community and a Prime Minster from the minority Sikh community.

The Indian Embassy was represented by the Minister for Community Affairs, Mr Anil Gupta, whose commended the roles of people of Indian origin in the progress of India. He also noted that Indian Americans have contributed significantly toward strengthening US-India relations.

Congressman Chris Van Hollen talked about his many years in India where he studied in his younger days when his father was a diplomat. Mr Doug Duncan, Montgomery County Executive, and Steve Silverman, the Council President, Montgomery County, Maryland - both of whom have a large number of Indian American constituents - described how Indians are both a responsible and successful community people contributing to the economic development of the region.

Other noted members that attended the event were: Mr Kumar Barve, Democratic Party Majority Leader in Maryland Assembly, Mr Aneesh Chopra, Secretary of Technology and Vivek Kundra, Assistant Secretary of Commerce & Trade in Virginia State government. As rising Indian-American political stars, they spoke of the need for greater political commitment on the part of the community.

In keeping with the practice of recent years, diplomats from countries with sizable Diaspora populations and those from India's neighboring countries were invited: His Excellency Sereywath Ek, the Ambassador of Cambodia; General Payenda Muhammad, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Afghanistan, who had graduated from India's Defense Academy at Khadakvasla; Mr Alvin Lim, D.C.M., Embassy of Singapore; and Ms. Dhammika Semasinghe, First Secretary, Embassy of Sri Lanka, who studied in India and was posted for four years in their Embassy in New Delhi.

Notably, the Kabir doha was spoken in perfect Hindi by Ms. Dhammika Semasinghe. Dr. Ainsle Embree, Professor Emeritus of Columbia University, described to the audience that he hoisted the Tiranga on January 26th, 1950 in his college in India. Many audience members were in awe of witnessing a speech by an original Indian freedom fighter.

After the speeches, awards were presented to the outstanding individuals in appreciation of their achievements or for their service to the Indian American community. Among these were General Payenda Muhammad, D.C.M. in the Afghanistan Embassy and Mr Sanjay Puri of US-INPAC for advocacy work.

The NCAIA awards were handed out by Mr Anil Gupta and the Maryland Senate awards by Mr Elisha Pullivarti, a senior Senate staffer. The event was a great success, especially because both Indian-Americans and their supporters came together in an evening of celebration and peace.

First Published: Feb 01, 2006 12:54 IST