BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE
Photos by Magic Dust Photography
Atlanta, GA, February 6, 2020: Well over hundred people gathered at the office of Consulate General of India, Atlanta on a cold morning in January 26, 2020 for the Flag Hoisting Ceremony to mark the 71st Republic Day of India. The occasion was also celebrated in the evening at the Studio Theater at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center.
This year’s celebration also included demonstrations in support and against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed by the Government of India.
The event was graced by Padma Bhushan Dr. Jag Sheth, Rep. Gloria Butler, Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, Sen. Sheikh Rahman, Rep. Mike Glanton, Rep. Angelika Kausche, Mayor Rusty Paul of Sandy Springs, June Wood, Henry County Board Chair, along with Consul Generals Aishatu Aliyu Musa, CGI, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Vincent Hommeril, CGI France, Nadia Theodore, CGI, Canada, Young-jun Kim, CGI, Korea, Jorge Lopez , CGI Argentina, Alex Gandler, Vice Consulate General of Israel, Shane Stephens, CGI, Ireland, Ken DeSimone, Sandy Springs Police Department, Bollywood actor Ajinkya Deo, Elliot Paige, Hartsfield Jackson International airport, faculties from various universities in Alabama, Georgia, Robert Kennedy, President ACIR, team from WTC Atlanta and TiE Atlanta.
Republic Day honors the date on which the Constitution of India came into effect on 26 January 1950 replacing the Government of India Act (1935) as the governing document of India, thereby forming a new republic.
As Consul General Dr. Swati V. Kulkarni unfurled
the Tricolor, the patriotic fervor was quite evident with the singing of the
National Anthem. An energetic instrumental ensemble of Dhol and Indian trumpets
elevated the nationalistic milieu. Dr. Kulkarni read out the Indian President,
Ram Nath Kovind’s address to the nation. She also highlighted the same during
her address at the evening gala.
CAA seeks to amend the definition of illegal immigrant for Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist and Christian immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who have lived in India without documentation. They will be granted fast track Indian citizenship in six years. So far 12 years of residence has been the standard eligibility requirement for naturalization. While center argues that these minority groups have come escaping persecution in Muslim-majority nations, protestors argue that the act ringfences Muslim identity by declaring India a welcome refuge to all other religious communities.
Supporters with slogans and banners expressed their approval of the act. There were protestors as well.
The sprawling Studio Theater was brimming with a sea of people, so much so, that there was no seating available and a large number of them had to stand and watch the proceedings.
Dr. Kulkarni recognized Dr. Jagdish N. Sheth, Charles H. Kellstadt Professor of Marketing at the Goizueta Business School of Emory University, who was one of the 16 illustrious honorees of the Padma Bhushan, which is awarded to distinguished service of high order this year. She also recognized Presidents of all organizations, the media, and all her guests.
WATCH OUR VIDEO COVERAGE OF THIS EVENT
Reading from the President’s
address, Dr. Kulkarni’s speech focused on the various achievements of the
Students of Subhatra Sudarshan, NNKB, and a dance medley choreographed by Neeta Surange wowed the audience with their vigorous and vibrant dance performances.
A sumptuous spread of Indian delicacies by Madras Chettinaad restaurant completed the festivities.
Some highlights from President Kovind’s address.
President Kovind said modern India comprises three organs – Legislature, Executive and Judiciary – which are necessarily interlinked and interdependent.
Reinforcing constitutional ideals. he
said, “It becomes easier for us to follow the constitutional ideals, if we
keep in mind the life and values of the Father of our Nation. By doing so, we
will be adding a meaningful dimension to our celebrations of 150th birth
anniversary of Gandhiji.”
President Kovind urged people, particularly the youth, to remain non-violent when fighting for a cause and stressed on the need to “hold fast to constitutional methods” of achieving social and economic objectives. His remarks come in the backdrop of protests against the CAA although he made no reference to them.
“A strong internal security system is also necessary for the development of the country. That is why the government has taken many concrete steps to strengthen internal security,” he said.
He praised ISRO for its achievements in space exploration and said the nation is eagerly looking forward to the success of Indian human spaceflight program.
President Kovind hailed public participation in government initiatives, such as ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’, giving up LPG subsidy, or promotion digital payments.
“In India, knowledge has always been considered more valuable than power, fame or riches. In our tradition, educational institutions are respected as temples of learning. When our land was pushed into backwardness after the long colonial rule, it was education that emerged as a path to empowerment,” he said about Education.
“Government has rightly focused its attention on the health sector,” said President Kovind, citing initiatives such as Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, Ayushman Bharat, world’s largest publicly funded universal healthcare program, and The Jan Aushadhi Yojana that have benefited citizens in various ways.
“As India and Indians march forward, we remain committed to engaging the global community to build a secure and prosperous future for ourselves and for the entire humanity,” said President Kovind.