Significance of India’s 77th Independence Day and Freedom Struggle front of mind on August 15

Indian Ambassasdor to the United States, Taranjit Sandhu unfurling the Indian flag on August 15, 2023, at India House in Washington DC. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

Washington DC: Shortly after unfurling the Indian flag – at India House – to commemorate the nation’s 77th Independence Day, Indian Ambassador to the United States, Taranjit Sadhu in his address to Diaspora members, on August 15, 2023, recalled India’s freedom fighters and their enduring struggles while also emphasizing nation’s achievements over the years.

Sandhu noted, “Today’s celebrations are special as the commemoration of 75 years of independence being marked as ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ culminate, and the country continues her march into ‘Amrit Kaal’ the journey into the next quarter, towards 100 years of independence,” while acknowledging the service of dedicated freedom fighters who resisted colonial rule and worked towards achieving independence.

“Since the time of independence, we have overcome great odds. And today, India stands tall as a shining example of democracy, pluralism, and as a bright spot in the global economic landscape. Our achievements, and our global standing is built on the relentless efforts of all our citizens, on the zeal of India’s youth, and on determined political leadership,” added Sandhu crediting the diaspora’s support for the robust US-India partnership.

Select paintings from the painting competition being displayed on August 15, 2023, at India House in Washington DC. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

News India Times spoke with Indian-American parents and asked their approach to sharing the significance of India’s Independence Day and freedom fighters with their American-born children.

Nandini Selvam, an epidemiologist and healthcare executive, shared her family’s discussions about prominent freedom fighters such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehra, and Sarojini Naidu and their pivotal roles in India’s arduous journey to freedom. Selvam recounted, “Over three years ago, we went to the Indian Embassy to meet with then Indian Ambassador to the US, Harsh Shringla to congratulate him on becoming India’s Foreign Secretary. After meeting with him, we made our way to the statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the Embassy, and it served as a great reminder to talk about our history and its ongoing significance with our kids, Raghu and Anagha.”

“On our way back home, we talked with the kids about Mahatma Gandhi, his importance in India’s Independence struggle, and how his teachings of non-violence had a direct influence on Martin Luther King Jr and his Civil Rights Movement in the United States,” adding “My grand-aunt Janaky Athi Nahappan, was also a freedom fighter and walked the streets with Subhas Chandra Bose to gain India’s independence. She then went on to create history as among the first women to join the Indian National Army, and later went on to become a founding member of the Malaysian Indian Congress.”

Selvam noted that during her family’s visit to India this summer, they had many discussions on India’s progress domestically and on the international stage, everything from the new Vande Bharat fast trains to the significance of India’s G20 Presidency, in response to G20 posters across the country.

Raghu Jayaraman and Anagha Jayaraman pose with the statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the Embassy of India in Washington DC on January 8, 2020. PHOTO: Nandini Selvam

Meena Thota, a telecom engineer, who immigrated to the US six years ago, eagerly anticipates sharing the history of India’s Independence, and stories of freedom fighters with her one-year-old son, Pulastya Datta. She said it’s always a matter of pride to discuss India’s Independence as her grandfather, Krishna Rao, a freedom fighter, actively participated in events of the freedom struggle alongside Mahatma Gandhi.

Thota and her husband Anagesh Thota are hoping to establish a solid foundation for their son in Indian culture and music. “I am enthusiastic about sharing insights into Indian Independence and my personal experiences of growing up in India. My hope is to instill in him the same affection I hold for India, where I spent my formative years,” added Thota.

Lakshmi Koneru, a software professional, shared that she and her husband actively discuss a series of pivotal events with her children including the Non-Cooperation Movement, Civil Disobedience Movement, and Quit India Movement that culminated in India’s Independence.

Koneru emphasized, “We talk about famous women freedom fighters like Jhansi Lakshmi Bai, Sarojini Naidu, and Annie Besant and their struggles,” said Koneru adding they consistently remind their children of the impactful words of Mahatma Gandhi, with their favorite quote being, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

Khushboo Mistry, who works in regulatory affairs, shared that their family frequently intertwines travel experiences with discussions about local history and geography. They have delved into India’s post-independence progress, particularly in their native Gujarat, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi. As their children mature, these discussions serve as an ongoing dialogue, according to Mistry.

“In our house, my 12-year-old daughter, is deeply concerned about social justice issues, and raises the many female related disparities in the US. So, we have often used that as an opportunity to reflect on the fact that India has had female leaders for decades and could serve as an example to the world in the great progress it has made over the years since independence,” said Protima Advani, a healthcare executive.

Advani further noted she has also discussed Mathematician Shakuntala Devi’s work and how there is no limit to what Indian women have achieved and contributed towards India’s progress.

The Embassy of India also organized a painting competition centered around the theme “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav” for age groups 7-12 and 13-18 years. Select artworks were showcased on August 15, at India House, and Ambassador Sandhu personally honored the top winners. All participants received commendation certificates as well. Students from the Gandharva School of Music sang patriotic songs.



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