Elected officials, others, join GOPIO to celebrate India’s 73rd Republic Day

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Dignitaries and elected officials at the celebration, of India’s 73rd Republic Day on Jan. 26, 2022. From left Consul General Randhir Kumar Jaiswal, Impact Executive Director Neil Makhija, Vermont State Senator Kesha Ram, NJ State Senator Vin Gopal, Ohio State Senator Niraj Antani, CT. Rep. Harry Arora, NY Rep. Jenifer Rajkumar, NH Rep. Latha Mangipudi and NJ Rep. Raj Mukherji. Photo: courtesy GOPIO

Hundreds of Indian Americans representing the Global Association of People of Indian Origin’s northeastern chapters came together to celebrate India’s 73rd Republic Day virtually on Wednesday, January 26, 2022, paying rich tributes to their ‘Motherland’. They included New York’s GOPIO Manhattan, GOPIO-CT, GOPIO-Central Jersey and other community organization displaying a show of unity in praise of India’s rich cultural heritage and democracy.

In his inaugural address, Indian Consul General in New York Randhir Jaiswal greeted the Indian diaspora in the United States and around the world noting this year was more special because it is the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence and labeled Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, which is being celebrated around the U.S.

Jaiswal praised Indian-Americans for being ‘very strong’ advocates for India-U.S. relations and contributing ‘immensely’ to it in all areas, especially in the healthcare sector where during Covid where experts in India and U.S. collaborated to develop vaccines and medicines. He pointed out India had exported 1.6 billion doses of Covid vaccines.

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Consul General Jaiswal greeted all the American elected leaders on the call.

Neil Makhija, executive director of Indian American Impact spoke about how it focuses on helping community members succeed politically, and how a record number of Indian-Americans have been elected up and down the ballot. Makhija went on to introduce the elected leaders.

American National Anthem by Mathy Pillai and Indian National Anthem by Jyothi Gupta and her team. Photo: courtesy GOPIO

New Jersey State Senator Vin Gopal recalled his visit with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy to India, meeting with several Chief Ministers and building collaborations in several areas, noting that New Jersey had the fastest-growing Indian-American community. Asian American history is now part of the state’s school curriculum noted Gopal who visited India frequently while growing up, to meet his grandparents

Vermont State Senator Kesha Ram talked of why she engaged in politics and was the  youngest ever to be elected to the State Assembly at the age of 21, adding, that by continuing to break through the barriers, more Indian-Americans could be elected.  “It’s incredible to be of public service, following in the footsteps of my great grandfathers,” she said, referring to her ancestry back in India, who had fought for the freedom for India.

Ohio State Senator Niraj Antani noted he is the 2nd Indian American ever elected to a statewide office and he is one of the only Republicans of Indian Origin to be elected. “Freedom is rare and needs to be upheld and protected. I work hard to reach across the aisle and cooperate with people in both the Parties to legislate,” Antani said.

New Jersey State Rep. Raj Mukerji said, “We are celebrating the world’s largest democracy today and India’s contributions to building a better world for all.” He pointed to how the Indian American Caucuses are growing across the nation and in several states. In the state of New Jersey, the Indian American representation in state offices has grown from 1 to 7 this year. He praised GOPIO for its work.

GOPIO officials and organizers of the celebration of India’s Republic Day on Jan. 26, 2022 – , Top row, from l. to r. GOPIO Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham, GOPIO-Manhattan Executive VP Prof. Raj Vangapaty and President Shivender Sofat. Bottom row, from l. to r. GOPIO-Manhattan Committee Member Chitranjan Belwariar, GOPIO-CT President Ashok Nichani and GOPIO VP Ram Gadhavi. Photo: courtesy GOPIO

New York State Representative Jenifer Rajkumar from the 28th District, thanked GOPIO and the Indian American community for the inspiration she has had in her life, “Indian identity is central to my election to the state assembly in New York. I stand on your shoulders as GOPIO has played a great role in helping me get elected to the State Assembly,” Rajkumar said.

She also said emphasized Gandhian principles as well as her Punjabi background have been her inspiration. She referred to the Bills she has introduced in the Assembly to celebrate Punjabi culture and declaring and October as Hindu heritage month as well as to celebrate India’s Independence Day.

New Hampshire State Rep. Latha Mangipudi, re-elected to the state House of Representatives, shared her journey and challenges in becoming a female, non-White elected official from a state which is majority White. “It was a very slow and gradual journey after I had come to the US to pursue higher studies in the 1980s,” she said, also quoting Gandhi’s and Rev. Martin Luther King’s inspiration.

Participants at the Jan. 26, 2022 Zoom celebrations of India’s 73rdd Republic Day, hosted by GOPIO. Photo: one screenshot of the Zoom call courtesy GOPIO

She noted how she has introduced traditional health systems of India including Ayurveda in New Hampshire, she thanked the Indian Consulate which has “worked with us to enhance awareness on India and its diverse culture and democratic values.”

Connecticut State Representative Harry Arora said about India’s Republic Day, “We know how powerful it is to have set up of laws and rules of laws, the power of a country comes from a beautifully written constitution which was adopted on that day…”

GOPIO Chairman, Dr. Thomas Abraham in his introductory remarks highlighted how India, after a long non-violent struggle, got its independence from the British Colonial Rule and declared itself a Republic in 1950 with one of the longest written constitutions. He also dwelt on how a large number of the brightest had come to the U.S. and made substantial contributions in the health and hospitality, science and technology, education and political sectors, He also dwelt on GOPIO’s initiatives during the pandemic, both for India, and in the U.S.

Other highlights of the Zoom meeting were singing of the U.S. and Indian national anthems, and patriotic songs by noted artists.

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