“The organization that claims to organize the India Day Parade is far from being Indian in character. Look at the people in FIA Trust and Executive. See the list of Trustees and Executive Members on FIA website www.fianynjct.org. You will find they all are, with the exception of one or two, from one community and one state of India. Is this organization truly representative of Indians and India?” asks the author.
Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) came into being in 1977 after changing the name of umbrella organization “Joint Committee of Indian Organizations” founded in 1975, under the leadership of Rajan Ghosh. The main goal of this organization was to celebrate India’s Independence and Republic days in Tristate area by bringing under one roof Indian students organizations: India Club of New York University, India Club of Columbia University and Association of Indians in America, The Bharathi Society of America and the Tagore Society of America.
A laudable step to celebrate and project united India. The Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) Founder, Thomas Abraham, a Christian from Kerala, was elected First President of FIA in 1977 and continued till 1981 when in March that year Sureshwar Prasad Singh took over and initiated the first India Day Parade in 1982 in New York . He was succeeded by H. C. Chandershekar for the 1982-83 term. Sudha Acharya took over for the term 1983-84 and introduced Bollywood to the Parade.
It was the first time that a Bollywood actor- Sunil Dutt- was invited as the Grand Marshal of the Parade and from then on it became a tradition to have a Bollywood actor as Parade’s Grand Marshal. Sudha Acharya was also instrumental in bringing 17 more organizations under FIA. With the Presidency of Ram Gadhvi in 1985, the hold on FIA of people from one religion and one region started getting stronger.
With the arrival on scene of the present Chairman, Ramesh Patel in mid 80’s, this group consolidated its position further and came to have absolute control of FIA. By now the organization which aimed at bringing together Indian American students associations and various regional organizations and communities to celebrate India’s Independence and Republic days had lost its focus. The degeneration of FIA had set in Also, the objective of showcasing Indian culture has been lost sight of.
Vulgar displays became the favorite projections of “the Indian culture”. (See picture of cheerleaders in tricolor bikinis on top). Display of Indian history and depiction of Indian freedom movement have clearly not been the themes with the coterie of 20 to 30 people from one community and from one state of India. The rot further set in with the entertainment industry people, keen on promoting their personal business, having Bollywood actors as Grand Marshals.
Two of the trustees -Yashpal Soi and Kanu Chauhan- have been pillars of entertainment industry for the last many decades and they have been at the helm of arranging Bollywood actors. What a lowly way to achieve a level of self aggrandizement! The organization that claims to organize the India Day Parade is far from being Indian in character. Look at the people in FIA Trust and Executive. See the list of Trustees and Executive Members on FIA website www.fianynjct.org. You will find they all are, with the exception of one or two, from one community and one state of India.
Is this organization truly representative of Indians and India? A Not-for -Profit organization is expected to value democracy and transparency. In the case of FIA, both democratic temper and values, and transparency are absent. A coterie of 20 to 30 persons from one community and one region of India, under the tutelage of Ramesh Patel, the Chairman of FIA, who has been donning various colors at different times, has been clutching , what should be the people’s organization, in their jaws and fangs.
This in the cradle of democracy, the United States of America! This in the land of the people who prize democracy and liberty the most! This in the land of the Lady of Liberty! This in the land of Martin Luther King, Jr. who drew inspiration from Father of the Indian Nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, whom we revere as Bapu and as Mahatma Gandhi! All this is being done by the sons of the land of Gandhi! What a shame! Money talks.
Money walks. Who knows it better than Ramesh Patel? It is with the patronage of government of India, donations from people and sponsorships manly from Indian banks, organizations and businesses that the FIA India Day parade walks and talks. But the organizers have scant respect for government of India representatives here.
Not long ago, it was widely reported in the media how Ambassador Hardeep S. Puri, the then Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations and the then Consul General of India in New York, Ambassador Prabhu Dayal were humiliated and not allowed to join the Grand Marshall in the front row during the parade. The Indian Panorama had, in particular, taken umbrage and raised the issue of humiliation of government of India at India Day Parade, and condemned the FIA.
As for transparency in functioning and financial wheeling dealing of FIA, it is a matter that needs to be looked in to by IRS and concerned US administration agencies. There are many a skeleton in the FIA cupboard which will tumble out once its doors are opened. It is for the donors, sponsors and government of India institutions who dole out large sums for the glory of India to ask the organizers how the money was being spent. We, on our own, do not mind coming up with the financial misadventures of FIA.
FIA has its own share and burden of criminals, some proven, some under cloud. We will not name any who has not been proved guilty. But we will let our readers know who have already been through criminal proceedings. Without going in to smaller matters which can be ignored, we will name at least two cases. One of Nirav Mehta, who was President of FIA in the year 2010 and was a Trustee until a few months ago. He was a proclaimed offender in India against whom there was a red corner notice.
He knows it. Ramesh Patel knew about it. Government of India outpost in New York knows about it. Another, more recent case is of Sarvesh Kumar Dharayan, Chair of the Reception Committee of FIA 2013 who was arrested from his home in New Jersey on July 17, in a multi-million fraud, and charged with one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, which carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison, one count of conspiracy to violate the Travel Act, which carries a maximum term of five years in prison and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison.
FIA has been having such illustrious people at the helm of affairs. And to keep company with such illustrious people, we are having another few illustrious people from India at FIA Parade on August 18, 2013. Do we not feel wronged when a champion against corruption decides to come to this parade organized by not so clean an organization? Anna Hazare should know he is no ordinary person, that all his activities are being watched and interpreted by billions who love and admire him as another Gandhi.
He should know the high hopes people of Indian origin the world over have from him. He will only be promoting corruption and strengthening the unjust coterie by coming to India Day Parade in New York. The worthy retired General of Indian army, V.K. Singh, one hopes, has not forgotten the strict protocol that he has been following in his long military career.
Before you accept an invitation, know where you are going. Before meeting a person, know who you are meting with. The least that this newspaper expects of him is that he turns his back on FIA India Day Parade in New York and never again accepts an invitation from such an organization. For the people from entertainment industry, from the hot and the most sought after siren of Bollywood, Vidya Balan, to the South Indian film world “supreme star” Sarath Kumar and “Queen of Indian TV” Radhika Sharat Kumar, I would say, “New York welcomes you. You are here to make money and showcase your talent.
You are here to entertain and in return win applause which will add up to your personal satisfaction, popularity and rating. I will not ask you not to show up because I will not like to snatch a person’s means of sustenance. Good luck to you!” But all who have been invited in the name of Bharat Mata must know where they are, in whose company they are, and what the intentions of the people behind FIA are.
Congratulations on the 66th anniversary of Independence of India, the largest democracy of the world, in the land of the oldest democracy of the world! Jai Hind!