With the booming sound of a dhol drum, the 69th annual India Independence Day celebration of freedom commenced Saturday at Fresno State in the Satellite Student Union.
“This celebration is just like the Fourth of July for us,” said Fresno State Professor Emeritus Sudarshan Kapoor. “We want our younger generation to remember how the country was freed, the kind of sacrifices our leaders made, and that we are here because of their sacrifices. They made India a free country, liberated country, and that gets a lot of respect.”
In attendance at the celebration were prominent members of the local Indian community and the city of Fresno. Among them were Fresno State President Joseph Castro, Congressman Jim Costa and keynote speaker Ujjal Dev Singh Dosanjh.
During the ceremony, Mayor Ashley Swearengin and the Fresno City Council declared Aug. 22 India’s Independence Day throughout Fresno.
Costa presented the Council of Indian Organizations a certificate of special congressional recognition for organizing the celebration.
Other highlights of the event include Dosanjh’s speech, a colorful cultural fashion show coordinated by the Indian Student Club and the energetic bhangra performance by the competitive co-ed dance team Bhangra Bloodline.
“It’s very important in Fresno because we don’t know where our community is,” said transfer student Hitesh Gosavi. “If we are to get our community close, we have to organize such kind of things, which can be helpful for us because we can get our community to get closer.”
India gained independence from British colonial rule on Aug. 15, 1947, with the help of leaders including Mahatma Gandhi.
“We have to remember the things that happened in the past and we are free because of those people,” said Sruthi Yellapati, a computer science major. “We have to give some respect to the struggle they have made for us and we are enjoying our freedom because of them.”
Keynote speaker Dosanjh addressed the young generation of Indians telling them to take pride in their culture and who they are.
“If you can be an American first, you can sure as heck be Indian first as well as part of your civilization inherently,” said Dosanjih. “It is so important, so important that we do that.”
Before completing his address, Dosanjh left the audience with a call to action for positive change.
“If you want to have an impact on lives in India and if you want to have a positive impact on the lives of people in the countries where you live, you have to go back to basics,” said Disanjih. “Basics that Mahatma Gandhi taught us, basics that actually got India the independence from the British.”