74th Indian Independence Day

Proud Indian Americans looked on with their heads held high as they witnessed the Indian Flag being raised at the Acton town hall, accompanied by Jana-Gana-Mana, the Indian National Anthem. The Indian Flag will fly for twenty four hours at the Acton Town Center to commemorate India’s 74th Independence Day, on August 15th 2020. This is happening for the first time in the history of Acton, thanks to the leadership of the Acton Board of Selectmen (BOS) and Sahana Purohit, a Finance Committee member, who stepped up promptly in response to IAGB (India Association of Greater Boston http://www.iagb.org ) initiative to hoist the Indian flag in 35 New England cities including Nashua, Connecticut and Maine towns.

In Acton, the occasion was graced by prominent town representatives such as Massachusetts State Senator Jamie Eldridge, Massachusetts Representatives Tami Gouveia and Dan Sena,  Acton Board of Selectmen (BOS) Chair Jon Benson and Vice Chair Dean Charter, Selectman David Martin, Vice Chair of the School committee John Peterson, Sunanda Sahay former Chair of Acton-Boxborough Cultural Council and Board member Acton Historical Society, and newly appointed Finance Committee member Esha Gangoli. President of IAGB, Sanjay Gowda and Directors Jeyanthi Ghatraju and Tanu Basu also graced the occasion. 

For the past sixty or so years, IAGB has had firm roots in the Greater Boston Area, and has upheld the tradition of celebrating India Day to commemorate India’s Independence in August, as well as Republic Day celebrations in January, among other ways to bring Indian culture and traditions to the forefront. This year, to celebrate this very important day for Indians, the pandemic did not slow this organization down. IAGB found a creative way to continue the celebrations. Unlike other years, instead of assembling in Boston for the Indian flag hoisting ceremony in a large gathering, IAGB brought the Indian flag to 35 New England towns, in smaller, safer gatherings. IAGB converted a limitation caused by the pandemic to instead spread the message of India Day and Indian Independence to so many towns.
Sahana Purohit, an Acton resident for the past fifteen years, a FinCom member and a Board Member of the League of Women Voters, who recently received the “Commonwealth Heroine 2020” award recognized by the Massachusetts State Senate,  introduced the dignitaries and guests present at the ceremony. In her introductory remarks, Sahana said “India gained her independence with peaceful civil protests and non-violence. This peaceful movement became a new weapon to fight against inequality and injustice throughout the world.”

President of IAGB, Sanjay Gowda, shared the vision of IAGB “This celebration is not just of independence, it is a celebration of freedom, of unity, of diversity; it is a recognition of Indian Americans, their heritage and culture and contribution to this Nation in many ways”. IAGB Director Jeyanthi Ghatraju drew attention to how history was being made as the Indian flag was raised on the Indian Independence Day in so many towns in and beyond the commonwealth. Tanu Basu, also a Director at IAGB, who has held multiple positions since her teen years, referred to the event as a cultural melting pot, personifying the spirit of this country.

Senator Jamie Eldrigde, who was also present at the flag raising in the neighboring town of Littleton, commended IAGB’s effort.”India and United States of America celebrate the common bond of becoming independent from Great Britain”. Referring to the Isaac David monument at the Acton Common, Sen Eldridge hailed Acton for the important role in the revolutionary war. Capt. Isaac Davis, born in Acton, was the first American officer to die in the revolution. Sen Eldridge also noted how far the Indian American community has come since the first wave of immigration in 1962, when IAGB was first established, with communities not only giving back in High Tech, Academia, Education, Public Health, Government, but also Cultural contributions. He remembered “Essence of India” being celebrated under the founder Sunanda Sahay’s leadership for many years to educate town residents about Indian culture and heritage.

Rep Tami Gouveia was very appreciative of the efforts of IAGB due to which the Indian flag would be the first country flag being raised in Acton Town Center. “Raising the flag speaks to what it means to be a welcoming community. With talks of racial justice and social justice, this is a critical symbol of the work that is going to continue”. Rep Gouveia is hoping to celebrate the 75th India Day with a party, dancing and Indian food!!

Rep Dan Sena, a dreamer from Brazil, is the first Brazilian immigrant elected to the state legislature in America. He shared his new learnings of the meaning of the colors of the Indian flag, saffron for sacrifice, white for peace, honesty and purity and green for faith, prosperity and life. The newly elected Representative wants to ensure that his Indian constituents have a voice in his office and feel comfortable reaching out.  

The Chair of the Acton Board of Selectmen, Jon Benson, shared his exposure to India as a child through his father serving in the Army/Air Medical Dental Corps post WWII in Agra, India and how his home in Queens, NY had a badminton court in the backyard. 

Before raising the flags, Jeyanthi Ghatraju of IAGB reminded us to remember the millions of lives that made freedom possible for our two countries. The American National Anthem, the Star Spangled Banner, was played first under the hoisted American flag. Selectman Jon Benson had the honor of raising the Indian flag along with the Indian National Anthem, Jana Gana Mana. 

Vice Chair Dean Charter exemplified America as the land of immigrants with a quote “Everyone here is from somewhere else”. He noted, “Every group of people and culture that came to America enriched the country and made the country stronger and made it welcoming for the next group of people to come here.” He read the proclamation and presented it to the representatives of IAGB. (Mr Sanjay Gowda made a correction to the statistics in the proclamation - 32 Million Indians all over the world, and 5 Million in America).

The icing on the cake of this very special occasion was the patriotic song “Vande Mataram” by a group of Acton residents, including Pradeep Shukla of Learnquest Academy of Music, Praveen Sahay, Sunanda Sahay, Vandana Sharma and Padmaja Bokkisam. The audio support for the event, including playing of both National Anthems was provided by Chakra Bokkisam,

As I drive by the town center, as an Indian American, it is a matter of pride for me to see the Indian flag flying alongside the American flag! 


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