NEW YORK (TIP): If India and the people of Indian origin living around the world enjoy freedom, liberty, equality and success, it’s due to the sacrifices, vision and foresight of men and women who dedicated their lives at the cause of freedom, fighting for independence from the 200-years of British Rule. There are millions who dedicated their lives, while there are some whose leadership and bravery inspired millions of others to fight for freedom. Shaheed Diwas or Martyrs’ Day is observed on six days across India which includes January 30th and March 23rd each year to remember the sacrifices of brave freedom fighters who devoted their entire lives to help us enjoy freedom. Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) along with the Consulate General of India in New York jointly organized and honored the martyrs during a virtual celebration of Shaheed Diwas 2021, which is the 90th death anniversary of three courageous youngsters on March 23rd, 2021. The celebrations touched many hearts as the hundreds of participants heard personal stories shared by family members of some of these brave men and women, who fought valiantly and gave up their lives at the altar of freedom for our motherland, India. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s daughter Dr. Anita Bose Pfaff (Germany), Lord Rami Ranger (UK), Dr. Maya Chadda (USA) and Historian/Author Dr. Bhuvan Lall (India).
India’s Consul General Ambassador Randhir Kumar Jaiswal launched [email protected], a yearlong Celebration commemorating the 75th Anniversary of India’s Independence and called upon the Indian Diaspora to join him in celebrating India’s freedom till August 15th, 2022. Shatrughna Sinha, Deputy Consul General in New York felicitated the community.
Ambassador Jaiswal and DCG Shatrughna Sinha released the Shaheed Diwas Calendar presented by Siddharth Jain (Sid Jain) of GOPIO-Manhattan, for the year 2021-2022. Ambassador Jaiswal while reviewing the calendar cited that it recognized contributions of Patriots of India. Ambassador Jaiswal further added on the Calendar as “A collector’s delight and dream”, where one can read about the freedom fighters and their heroic activities.
Consul General Jaiswal, in his address, commended GOPIO Manhattan for organizing the event and several others, honoring India and Indians. “Today is the Red Letter Day in the history of India,” the Indian diplomat with over three decades of diplomatic services around the world, told the hundreds of community leaders from around several continents who joined the celebration. “We honor today the legendary freedom fighters, recalling their bravery and love for our motherland.” Describing today’s celebrations as unique, Ambassador Jaiswal recalled the founding of the Ghadar Party by Lala Har Dayal over a century ago. “I humbly bow before their legendary sacrifices, which are inspiring us all.”
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Daughter, retired Prof. Dr. Anita Bose Pfaff shared with the audience experiences from her own personal life, as she was growing up seeing her father, travelling across India to Europe to South East Asia, garnering support from Western and Asian nations, creating an army to fight the British power. Stating that her dad was one of the most hated by the British, she narrated about the many coup attempts by the British to assassinate him. Calling him a Leftist radical, Dr. Anita Bose Pfaff said, “He had joined the freedom movement at a very young age. Joined the non-violent movement led by Gandhi initially. He was imprisoned and lost his health in prison. He risked his life disguising himself and escaping the prison and joined and led the Independence Movement abroad by aligning with Germany, Soviet Union and Japan, creating an Indian National Army (INA) to fight the British”. While Mr. Bose died in a plane crash, while trying to defeat the British, she said, “There is good reason to call him a martyr, because he died in the process of fighting for freedom. India was his sole love, and he was willing to put his life for the freedom of India. It’s justifiable to call him a martyr.”
Lord Rami Ranger, Member of the House of Lords, London, a self-made businessman and chairman of Sunmark Group, an international marketing and distribution company. He is also chairman and managing director of Sea Air and Land Forwarding Ltd. He is the Joint Chairman of Conservatives Friends of India in the British Parliament. Lord Ranger’s father Shaheed Sardar Nanak Singh stood for the unity of India and was assassinated by a mob in Gujranwala (in Pakistan) in 1947. “My father was assassinated at age 42 when I was not even born,” he said, sharing about the circumstances that led to his father’s martyrdom.
Describing that it is remarkable, India and the Diaspora are “paying tributes to those who made us what we are today. They demonstrated that their love for India was more than that for their love for their families. We cannot forget their sacrifices. We remember all those who made it possible for us today to celebrate our freedom. They are always martyrs and will live forever.”
Lord Ranger praised Indians, who “are contributing a great deal around the world. If we are not a free nation, we could not do so, contributing to the world. We are shaping the destiny of the people of so many nations. India is the most sought-after nation by people from around the world. We must stay united and fight together to preserve our freedom. Learn from history.”
Dr. Maya Chadda, Professor of Political Science, William Paterson University, Wayne, New Jersey. Member of Council of Foreign Relations. Dr. Chadda is an author of over half a dozen books. Her father, who was a linguist, had spent most of his time with Gandhiji in his Ashram. Dr. Chadda described at length about her works on Gandhian thoughts focusing on Satyagraha as a strategy of war. Sharing from her personal experiences, she shared with the audience about how her dad went to the Ashram at a very young age and his kids were born and grew up at the ashram, where he spent most of his life. Her dad was part of the editorial staff of Gandhi ji’s educational movement by newspapers to spread his message. “We were a Gandhian family throughout our lives. They were all dreamers, who dreamt of a unified India with freedom. They inspired mass support that led to the freedom movement, with ability to move the nation and win their support,” she said.
Dr. Bhuvan Lall, Film Producer, Entrepreneur, Speaker, Scriptwriter and Columnist, New Delhi, India. Author of The Man India Missed The Most – Subhash Chandra Bose & The Great Indian Genius – Har Dayal, eloquently told the story of the brilliant Lala Har Dayal, who spoke 9 languages and memorized 5,000 books at the very young age of 28-years. Har Dayal gave up his Government of India scholarship to St. John’s College at Oxford and became a supporter of the Indian revolutionary movement in 1907. He traveled through France and Germany, disseminating anti-British propaganda and lauding Western science and political philosophy as holding the key to a successful anticolonial struggle.
In 1913 Lala Har Dayal formed the Ghadar Party to organize a rebellion against the British government of India. He fled to Switzerland and then to Berlin, where he tried to foment an anti-British rising in northwestern India. After the German defeat in World War I, Har Dayal settled in Stockholm as a professor of Indian Philosophy and wrote Forty-Four Months in Germany and Turkey. He moved to the USA in the late 1920s and became a Professor of Sanskrit at the University of California, Berkeley.
Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman of GOPIO International, in his remarks gave an introduction to the objectives of the birth of GOPIO. “Connecting the Diaspora with our motherland” and celebrating the major festivals of India.” GOPIO-Manhattan has hosted some extraordinary events, especially during the Covid pandemic.
Shivender Sofat, President of GOPIO-Manhattan, in his passionate address, shared about the sacrifices of Freedom Fighters. “This is part of a series of events to pay homage to martyrs of India,” he said. “It was planned in 2019, but today, we are fortunate to have this virtually connecting all of us from around the world for this solemn event.” While referring to the different paths used by the freedom fighters, he said, “They all had one goal: freedom for our motherland. Our real homage to the martyrs is to work towards by preserving the ideals of the martyrs.” He led the audience from around the world to salute India and the Martyrs in one voice, as they all called out “Inquilab Zindabad.”
Emcee of the event, Anoop Bhargava introduced the importance of Martyr’s Day. On March 23 in 1931, three brave men, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar, and Shivaram Rajguru were hanged to death by Britishers, for fighting for freedom from British rule in India.
The two hours long celebration was combined with patriotic songs sung live by singers from the USA and Canada. Mohita, a High School Sophomore, led the audience with the American National Anthem. The Indian National Anthem was rendered by Leena Damle, a graphic designer. Vande Mataram, a patriotic song, was sung by Pallavi Verma Belwarior. Ishan Tangirala, an 8th grader sang the Patriotic song Mera Rang De Basanti Chola. Hitesh Jain of Vancouver, BC sang Sarforshi Ki Tamanna, lyrics of which were penned by Shri Ram Prasad Bismil, a Martyr, paying tributes to the martyrs.
GOPIO International Coordinator-at-Large Dr. Asha Samant and Prof. Ponisseril Somasundaran from Columbia University also shared their personal experiences with the freedom movement with moving anecdotes that made a lasting impact on the audience. Prof Somasundaran was choked with emotion when he shared his father’s involvement with Mahatma Gandhi in the Salt Satyagraha. Prof. Somasundaran’s father was honored by the Govt. of Indian with Tamara Patra for his service to the nation.
The program ended with a conclusionary remarks and vote of thanks by GOPIO-Manhattan Executive Vice President Prof. Rajasekhar Vangapaty, who was a co-organizer of the program with Shivender Sofat and Siddharth Jain.
(Based on a Press release issued by Shivender Sofat))