FIA is an organization in the public domain. As we had promised our readers to lay bare the facts about the organization in our editorial last week, here is the first in the series of revelations we will be making over the next few weeks.
We will be very happy to receive your comments which will be treated with all respect and published in the columns of The Indian Panorama. Please email your comment to firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also mail your comment to P.O.Box 190067, S. Richmond Hill, NY 11419. The comment can also be posted on line.
We have placed on our website (www.theindianpanorama.com) a petition to concerned authorities and call upon you to sign it if you are convinced that the FIA needs to be reformed and agree with the contents of the petition.
The Indian Panorama will be grateful for your support in reforming an organization which should legitimately belong to the Indian Americans as a whole.
Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) came into existence 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 Tri-state area by bringing under one roof Indian student 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.
Mr. Thomas Abraham, a Christian from Kerala was elected First President of FIA and in March 1981 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 term of 1982-83.
During the Presidency of Sudha Acharaya in 1983-84 tradition of Bollywood movie star as Grand Marshal with Sunil Dutt was started. She was also instrumental in bringing 17 more organizations under FIA.
With the Presidency of Ram Gadhvi in 1985, Hindu Gujarati Leader’s hold on FIA started increasing and the final nail in the coffin was put with the entry of Ramesh Patel to have absolute control. This organization lost its focus on Student Organizations, other regional organizations and other communities’ involvement in the India Day Parade. FIA stooped so low that its Chairman Ramesh Patel appointed Nirav Mehta, a wanted man by CBI in India as its President in 2010 and subsequently as its Trustee in 2011.
The 13 members all FIA Trust under the Chairmanship of Ramesh Patel has only 2 non Gujarati members; Yash Pal Soi a Hindu from Punjab and Prabir Roy a Hindu from West Bengal. The 6 member Executive Committee, barring Treasurer Ahmed Shakir, are Hindus from Gujarat. The same is true for various committees formed for the purpose of organizing the Parade. Majority are Hindus from one state- Gujarat only.
Current President Kanu Chauhan is a Trustee also and was also President in 1997.
This raises serious a question. There are almost 1 million Indians in Tri-State area how come FIA could not find talented individuals from other religions and belonging to other regions of India?
The truth is FIA has been majority controlled/owned by Hindus from one state of Gujarat only for over 25 years. In fact FIA is in perpetual control of Ramesh Patel along with his hand picked kitchen cabinet including fugitives running from law in India.
The most disgusting part in FIA is a lack of understanding the meaning of Indian Unity. The utter disregard for other states and other than Hindu religions of India does not contribute to the broad concept of Indian unity. FIA has shown no interest in promoting Indian Culture and Indian Art. Recognition of American born Indians who have brought glory to the community has never been on the agenda of FIA that has been obsessed soley with organizing India Day Parade or a Bollywood style Dance Pe Chance .All they know is how to parade themselves, their families, friends and parade contractors with a Bollywood star. They do not hesitate to Parade girls in Indian Tri color Bikinis dancing to the song “Mera rang de Basanti Chola” to insult India- the very country they profess they love.
FIA is not at all transparent and willing to put their accounts on the internet for public to see despite the fact money spent has been received from organizations owned by Indian public like State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Bank of India, Air India etc. and Indian Multinational Corporations like Kingfisher, Jet Airways, Zee TV etc. as well as Indian Americans. No one knows how the money is collected and spent. All the contracts are awarded to majority from Gujarat on no bid basis without calling for open tenders.
Insiders are claiming that donations from big donors are collected by a third party and after taking out 15-20% as commission the third party passes on the rest of money to FIA with the full knowledge of its Chairman Ramesh Patel.
Then FIA is violating US Laws also for Charitable organizations by openly taking sides in Elections besides violating financial disclosure and Foreign Trade Practices laws. FIA should be investigated for its illegal activities by Government of India for misusing Public Organization Funds, appointing fugitives running from law in India as President and Trustee. FIA needs to be investigated by US Authorities as well for violating numerous laws of the country.
Ramesh Patel and his supporters must understand FIA is run with public money and contributions from sponsors. They have no ownership rights of the organization. Moreover a great majority of Indians do not agree with their narrow thinking that “Hindu Gujarat is India and India is Hindu Gujarat”. They must honor and respect that India has 28 states and 7 Union Territories practicing all the major religions of the world. The Hindus of other states are not inferior to Gujarati Hindus. Neither are the Sikhs, Muslims, Jains, Christians & Budhists inferior to Gujarati Hindus.
Multi-religious and multi-state secular nature of India and democratic process demands term limits for all FIA office bearers and trustees as well as representation to every state and ethnicity to the maximum possible limits. Let there be a public debate on this issue on the basis of the formula given below:
1. Equal Representation to all Major Religions of India by keeping 2 members for each religion nominated by their religious bodies. If there are multiple religious bodies in a particular religion; those bodies have to put their head together to nominate 2 people for a tenure of 2 years only for the post of Trustee. A Trustee will have 1 term limit with no exceptions. After a gap of 4 years a person can come back on the request of his/her religious body. This will give equal representation to Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Budhists & Christians. All financial matters will be the responsibility of the Trustees.
2. One member from each of the registered State organizations for 2 year term nominated by their organization like Gujarat, Bihar, Bengal, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Kashmir, U.P. etc. for the working committee. There will be 2 Term Limit. If the organization wants to replace its nominee after 2 year term, they will be free to do so.
3. One Member each from registered Indian Student bodies nominated by their Student council for a term of 2 years for the working committee with 1 Term limit.
4. One Member each from Lesbian/Gay Transgender/ Bisexual (LGTB ) community for a 2 year Term nominated by their organization with a 1 Term Limit.
5. One Member from the Indian Consulate nominated by the CG to monitor that the theme of the Parade is in conformity with the international image of India.
Non representation of people from other religions and other states as well as Union Territories of India in FIA doing India Day Parade has been going on for over 2 decades. It is insulting to the very secular and democratic nature of India. It is gross injustice and should not be allowed to continue any more. In the name of Equality and Justice, it is the solemn duty of every individual of Indian origin living in America to demand equal representation for all communities and all Indian states in FIA. If FIA does not agree to this they should not be funded or sponsored or allowed to organize India Day Parade.
The major sponsors especially government of India, and government of India owned corporations, Indian Multinationals and Indian Americans must get involved in this public debate.
Joint Effort by volunteers
Secular India Day Parade