Indian Ambassador Honored at Packed Community Reception


June 17, 2015

By Geeta Goindi

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi Graces the Event

June 17, 2015

By Geeta Goindi

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi Graces the Event

Scenes from a community reception to welcome the new Indian Ambassador Mr. Arun Kumar Singh (top – second from left) to Washington.  At lower left, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi greets children; and at right, Senior BJP leader Dr. Kiran Bedi is flanked by community activists

Potomac, MD – On June 14 well over 400 Indian-American activists thronged to a grandiloquent community reception held in honor of the new Indian Ambassador Mr. Arun K. Singh who has formerly served as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy in Washington and is a favorite diplomat of the Diaspora here.  Gracing the event was the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, revered the world over for his unrelenting efforts to liberate children from slavery, labor, abuse, illiteracy, all forms of exploitation.

In his remarks to the gathering at the Washington Hebrew Congregation’s spacious Julia Bindeman Suburban Center, Ambassador Singh spoke of advancing the interests of the community and of India-US ties.  “The relationship between India and the US is very strong across a whole range of sectors in the economic field, in technology, and in defense where we are making tremendous progress”, he said.  “I believe there is an opportunity for all of you, who have excelled after coming to the United States, to now also engage with the processes in India and make further contributions not just to the United States, but also to the India-US relationship”.

New Delhi’s top diplomat in Washington applauded Indian-Americans for their stellar achievements, not just in the community, but in mainstream America, and in diverse fields such as mathematics, literature, and spelling.  “Now, the people who came here and subsequent generations are being recognized, achieving excellence, in the framework of the wider community”, he noted.

The envoy drew attention to the upcoming global Yoga Day that will be observed in many cities in the United States and around the world.  “In December last year, the United Nations declared June 21 as the International Day of Yoga, at the initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi”, he recalled.  “Here in DC, we will be observing it on the National Mall and I encourage all of you to turn up in large numbers, to recognize this very important contribution of India’s tradition, civilization, and also very important contribution to holistic health-care”, Ambassador Singh told the gathering.

At the community reception are seen clockwise from top left: Nobel prize winning child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi with eight-year-old Neev Saraf who has raised over 40,000 dollars for Nepal earthquake disaster relief; Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and his wife Catherine with the Nobel Laureate; Kailash Satyarthi interacts with a girl at the reception as one of the event organizers Mrs. Promila Gupta looks on; Shreya Bhatia, a supremely talented singer and high school student with Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi

In his previous post here, as DCM, he built a strong and special rapport with the community and at the reception he revealed it felt like he has “reached home again”.  Looking across the jam-packed Center, he said, “It is always wonderful for a new ambassador to be welcomed to a place by the community of the country which he represents.  But, for me it is a special privilege not just to be welcomed, but in a sense being welcomed back”.

Addressing the gathering in Hindi, Nobel Laureate Satyarthi hoped India-US ties would strengthen during Ambassador Singh’s tenure.  To the Diaspora, he said, “Your biggest contribution is that you have raised the level of respect for India and done so on the basis of your strong Indian values”.  He extolled the community for keeping Indian values and traditions alive in their adopted land.  “We don’t even see that in India”, he said.

But, Satyarthi was optimistic that India has the capability to solve all problems, and he looked forward to a day when women will be safe, when all children will be educated and free from slavery.  “All children are our children”, he averred.  “I hope we will make this world much better for our children”.

Among the prominent guests at the reception were: Senior BJP leader Dr. Kiran Bedi; Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett; Kumar Barve, Majority Leader, Maryland House of Delegates, and Congressional candidate; Sam Malhotra, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Human Resources, the first Indian-American appointed by Governor Larry Hogan; and from the Indian Embassy in Washington – Deputy Chief of Mission Mr. Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Minister of Community Affairs Mr. N. K. Mishra, and Minister of Consular Affairs Mr. Arun Kumar Sinha.

Indian Ambassador Mr. Arun K. Singh (left) at a community reception held in his honor at the Washington Hebrew Congregation in Potomac, MD.  Seen from right are the organizers, Mr. Sunil Singh and Dr. Sambhu Banik

Community stalwarts who organized perhaps the largest gathering of its kind were Sunil Singh, Coordinator, Dr. Sambhu Banik, Kaleem Kawaja and Gisela Ghani.  A number of Indian-American community organizations, led by the National Council of Asian Indian Associations (NCAIA), collaborated to host the reception which began with a powerful rendition of the national anthems of India and the US by supremely talented singer and high school student, Shreya Bhatia.  On a heartwarming note, special recognition was accorded to Neev Saraf, an eight-year-old boy who has raised over 40,000 dollars for Nepal earthquake disaster relief.

Earlier at a press conference coordinated by Dr. Banik and Mr. Satish Gupta, Nobel prize winning child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi emphasized, “US and India, the two biggest democracies, must jointly take the lead in abolishing child slavery”, underscoring that “they have the power to play an important role”.

Recalling his meeting with President Obama, a fellow Nobel Laureate, in Delhi, earlier this year, Satyarthi disclosed, “We had a good chat” on “how India and America can fight together against human trafficking and slavery in the world.  It is unfortunate that 5.5 million children according to the UN, and over 8 million according to independent sources, are still enslaved globally”, he said.  “It is a serious question and big, vibrant democracies like India and America must work hand-in-hand to put an end to this menace”.

Regarding strides made in children’s welfare during Prime Minister Modi first year in office, Satyarthi commended the government for launching the scheme, ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ (Save girl child, educate girl child).  “That gives a lot of moral boost to the cause of the girl child”, he noted.  In addition, legislation has been introduced to ban child labor, he told reporters.  “Things have moved in a positive direction, but for an activist like me, it is not enough”, he said.  “We need prompt action because childhood is not going to wait”.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi addressing the Press in the Washington area

Satyarthi emphasized, “When we talk of children, it is always with a sense of urgency.  In politics, you can wait and watch, but I am not a politician”, he said.  “I am a representative of children.  For me, it is important that action is taken now.  Whoever is in power has to protect our children.  They are all India’s children”.

He lamented that “the world has failed it’s children again and again.  I don’t accept it”, he said.  “I refuse to accept that the world is so poor that it cannot educate its children”.

When it comes to the international development agenda, a process led by the United Nations, Satyarthi noted that education for all children has been postponed to 2030.  “That is unacceptable”, he said.  “My demand to the US administration, the Indian government and all other countries, is that in the new development agenda, the sustainable development goals of the UN General Assembly, there should be explicit language against child slavery.  Many governments deny the existence of child slavery”.

Satyarthi believed it is paradoxical that while people in India draw their values from their ancestors, these values are not translated in real life.  He pointed out that Goddesses of wealth, wisdom, knowledge, power, are all worshipped, but a large number of girls are trafficked within India and from neighboring countries into India.  He noted that daily, news stories highlight how girls are sexually abused, murdered.  “Unfortunately, that is the duality of our lives”, he said.  “On the one hand, we worship Goddesses and keep them in temples.  But, the real Goddesses are being raped and murdered.  That must change”!

Satyarthi, who founded the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) in 1980, has been visiting the US for some three decades now as part of his campaign.  His current trip, from June 13 to 21, includes an important event for childhood freedom on June 16, at the historic Lincoln Memorial.  “That is both symbolic and significant”, he told reporters.  “My colleagues, supporters, anti-child-labor and human rights activists are organizing this event and linking it with two major historic events there” — the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 and the famous ‘I have a Dream’ speech by the 1960s civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi addressing the Press in the Washington area

 “They are connecting childhood freedom with the long American tradition of freedom”, Satyarthi said.  “This is also in commemoration of the 84,000 children which I and my organization have freed in the last 35 years”.

Besides Washington, the Nobel Laureate will also visit New York, and attend the AAPI (American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin) convention in Orlando, Florida.  Prior to his US visit, he was in Europe addressing the General Assembly of the International Labor Organization in Geneva, and in Oslo, Norway, partaking in the tenth anniversary celebration of the Nobel Peace Center.

Community Special by MYDOSTI.COM