GOPIO JOINS HANDS WITH INDIAN CONSULATE TO CELEBRATE SHAHEED DIWAS

Ambassador Randhir Kumar Jaiswal, Consul General of India in New York inaugurating the event

(Manhattan, NY: March 28, 2023) 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 the brave freedom fighters who devoted their entire lives to help us enjoy freedom. 

As 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. 

Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) along with its chapters in the New York area (Manhattan, New York, Edison and Central Jersey) joined hands with the Consulate General of India in New York to organize and honor the martyrs during a virtual celebration of Shaheed Diwas 2023, which is the 92nd death anniversary of three courageous youngsters Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Shivaram Rajguru and Sukhdev Thapar on March 18, 2023. 

The celebrations, started with a welcome remarks by GOPIO-Manhattan Co-Secretary Emcee Bhavya Gupta, 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 India. Bhavya then introduced the other Emcee of the event, poet and writer Anoop Bhargava , who spoke on the importance of Martyr’s Day. Bhargava sai, “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.”    

India’s Consul General Randhir Kumar Jaiswal opened with Jai Hind.  He shared his journey of 25-years since starting in the Indian Foreign Service in 1998 and pointed to the nine-fold growth in the same period within India.  He further added, that the next 25-years, known as Amrit Kal (100-years of independence); India will grow 9-fold or more.  He praised the contributions of the Martyrs that led to the last 75-years of success and called upon the Indian Diaspora to join him this year and convey the message of India as it leads G20 Presidency to the people across the world. Also, this year India celebrates the International Year of Millets 2023 or Shree Anna (means auspicious).   Millets are less consuming of water and highly nutritious. For more info on millets, click here: https://twitter.com/IYM2023

Speakers at the Shaheed Diwas, Top Row, from l. to r. Indian Consul Vipul Dev, Vermont State Senator Kesha Ram, Fil Producer and Author Dr. Bhuvan Lall; Botton Row: from l. to r.: Vice Chancellor Dr. Neerja Arun Gupta, New York City Univ. Professor Manu Bhagawan and Peot Gajendra Solanki

The program started with a welcome by GOPIO Chair for the event and emcees Mr. Anoop Bhargava and Ms. Bhavya Gupta.  GOPIO International Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham, who also serves as an advisor to GOPIO-Manhattan, encouraged the speakers to mentor, motivate and guide the youngsters especially the new students from India to the US. 

Dr. Abraham said, “GOPIO caters to the 32 million Indian Diaspora. GOPIO has done pioneering work in connecting the diaspora with the motherland.  He asked the distinguished speakers to join the attendees in celebrations those who were martyred and devoted their life for India” 

Vermont State Senator Ms. Kesha Ram reflected on her roots and the involvement of her families during the partition of India and Pakistan.  That event displaced millions and numerous lives were lost.  Her Great-Great Grandfather was Shri Gangaram upon whom there is a hospital named in the Capital–New Delhi and Lahore, Pakistan.” 

Dr. Bhuvan Lall, Film Producer, Entrepreneur, Speaker, Scriptwriter and Columnist, New Delhi, India. Author of The Man India Missed The Most – Subhas Chandra Bose & The Great Indian Genius – Har Dayal, reminded the audience of the importance of various dates before and after March 23rd starting with Jan 30th, Feb 27th, March 23rd, April 13th.  Dr Lall reminded that the freedom struggle started in 1857 that caught fervor post hanging of the three martyrs and led to the freedom in 1947.  

Dr. Lall narrated an incident that happened the year following on Jan 26th 1932 wherein the young men decided to march and unfurl their flag in front of the Town Hall. The police came to know and were prepared for this.  Five men appeared singing the song “Jhanda Ooncha Rahe Hamara” (Our Flag Shall Fly High).  The police led a lathi charge and dissipated the crowds and went to their respective locations and celebrated their victory.  Much to their surprise, they heard the same song “Jhanda Ooncha Rahe Hamara” being sung by women with the flag in their hands headed to Town Hall.  By the time Police got time to react, a large crowd gathered with the Flag almost ready to plant it at the Town hall 

GOPIO International President Lal Motwani speaking at the Shaheed Diwas with GOPIO Organizers on the screen: Top Row, from l. to r. Anoop Bhargava, Lal Motwani, Ram Gadhavi, Middle Row: From l. to r. Dr. Thomas Abraham, Shivender Sofat. Siddarth Jain; Bottom Row, from l. to r.: Braj Agrawal, Bhavya Gupta and Pallavi Verma Belwariar

Dr. Neerja Arun Gupta, Vice Chancellor of Sanchi University for Buddhist and Indic Studies, added her comments on the occasion with Swaraj as a movement and highlighted the sacrifices of the martyrs.  India is changing and Indians are becoming more Bhartiya.  The growth is attributed due to the Swaraj or the Freedom Movement and the benefits are being seen today post overcoming the colonial hangover.  The movie Shaheed, personified the struggle of Bhagat Singh as portrayed by Shri Manoj Kumar and his mother’s role as essayed by Kamini Kaushal, the line that resonated with the citizens was the strength of the mother of Bhagat Singh “Tu Na Rona kyon ki Tu Hai Bhagat Singh Ki Maa” (Do not shed a tear as youre the mother of Bhagat Singh)”. 

Kavi Gajendra Solanki mesmerized the audience with this spirited narration of the poerty related to Martyr’s Day… His narration got the audience reinvigorated with this voice and message.  

Mr. Lal Motwani, President of GOPIO International, in his remarks gave a background of his family during the partition and how they navigated from Lahore to Punjab India.” 

Dr. Manu Bhagwan, Professor of History and Human Rights at Hunter College and the Graduate Center-The City University of New York, and Senior Fellow at the Ralph Bunche Institute, illustrated the freedom struggle and provided an insight on the message of Mahatma Gandhi and Bhagat Singh.  Both Gandhi and Bhagat Singh called on us to believe in something larger than ourselves and larger than themselves to hold on to some key values to recognize some essential truths and to fight for broader ideals to honor the sacrifices that they made and to recall these values of truths and ideals and to understand that the aspiration for these is ongoing and in fact Eternal and that it is through our constant quest for them that our Shaheeds/Martyrs achieve immortality. 

Prof. Bhagwan said, “Bhagat Singh and Gandhi are often contrasted for having different visions one that of a young revolutionary and the other the apostle of non-violence yet the two were closer in both means and ends than is commonly thought; both dreamed of a more equal and just world free from oppression and once imprisoned Bhagat Singh and his friends got recognition for Fighting For Better Conditions for those in jail specifically deploying a tactic more commonly associated with Gandhi a fasting hunger strike — this non-violent form of self-suffering from Gandhi’s point of view was premised on the belief that all of us and each of us are connected in deep and profound ways through what Gandhi called the bond of love.”

Cultural Consul Vipul Dev from the Indian Consulate summarized the event “Keep the memories of our Martyrs alive and it’s very important to let the future generations of our diaspora especially the children who are born and brought up here in the United States to acquaint them with the glorious history of India’s Freedom struggle.” He further added, “It took immense courage and immense sacrifices by the Shaheeds on their part, imagine someone you know as young as 23 years old like Bhagat Singh was and their other companions they were young men in their 20s, some were in their 30s, but imagine the kind of courage and sacrifice that they chose so we should learn and we should take inspiration from their life and we should understand their message and take it forward.”

Consul Dev further said “As we gather at the Consulate General of India with our community who are regular at our events and who are connected with us, that this year we are celebrating the 75th year of India’s independence, Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav and as part of that series of celebrations we are remembering so many of our freedom fighters especially those who we consider unsung heroes.” 

GOPIO-Edison President and Singer Pallavi Verma Belwariar singing the patriotic songs.

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.”

The ninety minutes long celebration was combined with patriotic songs: Vande Mataram and Kar Chale Hum Fida, patriotic songs, were sung by Pallavi Verma Belwarior, paying tributes to the martyrs.

The program ended with a conclusionary remarks and vote of thanks by GOPIO-Manhattan Team, Anoop Bhargava, Bhavya Gupta, along with Shivender Sofat and Siddharth Jain. Technical support for the program was provided GOPIO Manhattan Life Member and GOPIO Edison Board Member Chitranjan Sahai Belwariar.

Four ending lines

कवितादेश के वीर सपूतों

इतनी सी बात हवाओं को बताए रखना,

रौशनी होगी चिरागों को जलाए रखना,

लहू देकर की जिसकी हिफाजत हमने,

ऐसे तिरंगे को को सदा अपनी आंखों में बसाए रखना

***

In accordance with its mission to serve the larger society and those in need, GOPIO-Manhattan Chapter has taken several initiatives in the recent past. A Community Feeding is organized by the Chapter providing ​vegan or ​vegetarian lunch for the homeless and needy at Tomkins Square Park in Manhattan on the last Monday of every month. The chapter appeals to the community to support the initiative by being a volunteer to serve the lunch and/or a sponsor.

For more info on GOPIO Manhattan, call President Shivender Sofat at 731-988-6969, e-mail: info@gopiomanhattan.org or visit here: https://gopiomanhattan.org/

Facebook Link: GOPIO Manhattan NYC

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