NCAIA celebrates Indian Republic Day in Washington area

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Diplomats, legislators and prominent members of the area’s Indian American community attend the event.

Students from the Washington area performing at the NCAIA Republic Day event in Greenbelt, MD, on January 29, 2017. Photo by Sarmukh Singh Manku

GREENBELT, Maryland: Nearly 350 people, among them diplomats, legislators and prominent members of the region’s Indian American community, gathered here to celebrate India’s 68th Republic Day on January 29.

Prominent guests that attended the event, hosted by the National Council of Asian Indian Associations, Inc., included Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, former Maryland Lt- Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Montgomery County Chief Executive Ike Leggett.

Not surprisingly, coming just two days after a highly controversial executive order by President Donald Trump targeting seven predominantly Muslim countries, which triggered a nationwide outpouring of outrage, the event had overt political overtone, with some of the speakers.

Kennedy Townsend, Raskin and Democratic donor and Indian American philanthropist Frank Islam strongly condemning the Trump order.

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Philanthropist Frank Islam delivering the keynote address at the NCAIA Republic Day event in Greenbelt, MD, on January 29, 2017. Photo by Sarmukh Singh Manku

Delivering the keynote address, Islam said, “We need to step up, speak up, and speak out on civil rights, human rights, women’s rights, and minority rights.”

Quoting Hillary Clinton, who lost to Trump in the November elections, he said: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

The Potomac, MD, resident said “despite the outcome of Presidential election” November 2016 “also brought great joy” for him “because of the substantial gains made by Indian American candidates in the congressional races.”

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It was a matter of great pride that five “fantastic five members were sworn in as members of US Congress.” He added: “What it means is we, finally, have several seats at the table!”

He reminded the gathering that the credit for the success of Indian Americans in congressional races goes to trailblazers like Bhagat Singh Thind, an early 20th century immigrant who fought for US citizenship, and Dalip Singh Saund, the first Indian and Asian American member of Congress, as well contemporary political leaders such as Kumar Barve, the first Indian American elected to a state legislature.

Islam urged the members of the community to increase their political and civic participation. “It is critical for us to be politically engaged not only as Indian Americans but also as responsible citizens of this country,” he said. “Political engagement is especially important because it can provide the lever for progress in other forms of engagement.”

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Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of India Reenat Sandhu speaking at NCAIA Republic Day event in Greenbelt, MD, on January 29, 2017. Photo by Sarmukh Singh Manku

Another prominent speaker was Reenat Sandhu, the Deputy of Chief of Mission at the Embassy of India, who greeted the community on the Republic Day.

Leggett, NCAIA Chairman Dr. Suresh Gupta, president of the organization Pavan Bezwada and prominent Trump supporter Jesse Singh were among other speakers.

The event concluded with a cultural program that featured several performers from the region.