“I was born in India, lived in India as a child, and again as an adult. I am 51 years old. I have grown up largely abroad, but my heart is Indian, and my Gods are Hindu, and that means that both are open, giving, inclusive, expansive, full of love. My Indian heart sings Eshwar Allah Tero Naam, and my Hindu Gods teach me, “aano bhadra krtavo yantu vishwatah.” This is from the Rig Veda and means: “Let Noble Thoughts come to me from all directions.” Said Ms. Sunita Viswanath, co-founder of ‘Hindus for Human Rights’ addressing a gathering organized in coordination with Indian overseas Congress, USA, and Indo-US Democracy Foundation celebrating the Nehru Jayanthi on November 14, in Queens, New York.
“The India that was envisioned by Nehruji, Gandhiji, Ambedkarji and so many other visionaries and revolutionaries, the India that is a “sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic” which ensures “justice, liberty, equality to all citizens and promotes fraternity to maintain unity and integrity of the nation,” is in crisis. This carnage of lives, rights, and Democracy is happening in the name of our faith. There must be a Hindu response to Hindutva. After all, since Hindus are the majority, no change is possible without changing the hearts and minds of Hindus. Who will annihilate caste if not Hindus?”
Nehruji’s greatest influence and inspiration, Gandhiji, was a progressive Hindu if there ever was one. Gandhiji wrote, “Hinduism tells everyone to worship God according to his own faith or dharma, and so it lives at peace with all the religions.” And Nehruji said, on Gandhiji’s birthday in 1952, “If any person raises his hand to strike down another on the ground of religion, I shall fight him till the last breath of my life, both at the head of government and from outside,” Ms. Viswanath added.
In opening the meeting, Dr. Leno Thomas, the Emcee of the event, stated that Nehru understood that greatness lay in the service of our fellow human beings. “The only alternative to coexistence is co-destruction,” he said. “Without peace, all other dreams vanish and are reduced to ashes.” He saw Democracy as a means to an end, not the end itself. He saw freedom as a tool to uplift a lot of people. “The world of today has achieved much, but for all its declared love for humanity,” he said, “it has based itself far more on hatred and violence than on the virtues that make one human. War is the negation of truth and humanity. War may be unavoidable sometimes, but its progeny is terrible to contemplate. Not mere killing, for man, must die, but the deliberate and persistent propagation of hatred and falsehood, which gradually become the normal habits of the people”.
“He succeeded to a large extent in maintaining the edifice of Indian unity using Democracy, socialism, and secularism. He believed and lived the fundamental truth that all human beings had a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the very principles, and words of the founding fathers of the United States of America. Wherever we are, in whatever small way we can, let follow his example and think and live and do likewise,” Dr. Thomas added.
Welcoming the distinguished guests that included Mr. Paul Vallone, the NYC councilman, George Abraham, Vice-Chairman of the IOC, USA recollected a bit of history where India was at the time of Independence. “Congress started with zero. Electricity was available only in 20 villages across India, Telephone facilities were available only for 20 rulers (Kings) in the country, no drinking water supply, no hospitals, no educational institutions, no fertilizers, no jobs, rampant starvation in the country, four planes, 20 tankers and fully open borders, minimum roads and bridges, empty exchequer and that is what Nehru inherited”.
“Today India has the largest army, thousands of warplanes, lakhs of Industrial Institutions, electricity in almost all villages, hundreds of electrical power stations, several thousands of highways and bridges, new railway projects, stadiums, super-specialty hospitals, most of the Indian households with Television, telephone services across the country, Banks, Universities, AIMS, IITs IIMs, Nuclear weapons, Submarines, ISRO…all these were achieved under the vision of our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Some would talk as if this all has happened in the last five years, and it is nothing but an outright distortion of history. The attempt by the current regime to marginalize the legacy of Nehru is shameful and will not succeed,” Mr. Abraham added.
The meeting also played Nehru’s “Tryst with Destiny” speech and Mr. Paul Vallone, who received a Humanitarian Award from the Indo-US Democracy Foundation for his support for promoting Democracy and freedom lauded Nehru for his inclusive policies that united India and appealed to the gathering to emulate the same values for their transplanted lives here in the USA. Mr. Indrajit Saluja, Chief Editor of Indian Panorama, presented him with a plaque, and Ms. Mariamma Varkey, Chairperson for Kerala Chapter’s Women’s forum felicitated him with a Shawl.
Mr. Rajender Dichpally, General Secretary, reminded everyone to read Nehru’s ‘Discovery of India’ to gain a better perspective on history. Ms. Malini Shah was applauded specially by Mr. Paul Vallone for her support and her outstanding contributions to the Asian Indian Community. Senior IOC leaders Ravi Chopra, Leela Maret, Shalu Chopra, U.A. Naseer, and Oommen Koshy also spoke on occasion. Ms. Sophia Sharma spoke on the need to get more involved in mainstream politics to support the same Nehruvian values. Other IOC leaders who were present also included Mr. Pradeep Samala, John Joseph, Satish Sharma and Rajesh Alladad, K C Chaithanya, S. Lal Malick and community leaders such as Mohammed Hack, Dilip Chauhan, Jennifer Rajkumari, Somanath Ghimire and Koshy George.