BY MAHADEV DESAI
Photos by Vinod Sharma/SFA Productions
Atlanta, GA, February 6, 2017: Similarities between the Indian and US Constitutions, individual rights and the role of a free press were recurring themes among the invited speakers at the Indo-American Press Club (IAPC), Atlanta chapter’s inaugural Republic Day celebration and awards ceremony at the Ashiana Banquet Hall on January 28.
“India’s Constitution has borrowed quite a few features from the US Constitution. Above all, the Bill of Rights was incorporated into India’s Constitution as Fundamental rights, guaranteeing liberty, fraternity, justice and equality to all our people,” Consul General Nagesh Singh said in his keynote address.
“We also have shared values- plural multi-ethnic, multicultural, multiracial societies. We have the same ambitions and we are trying to grow and create an international order based on fundamental freedom and democracy and common interests.”
Complimenting the IAPC, Singh said the press is one of the pillars of democracy, and has an important role not only in seeking accountability from the people who govern us (he was referring to India), but also to promote better understanding and unity between various communities that live in this country, “so that we become a peaceful, harmonious community wherever we are.”
The guest of honor, Chairman of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, Charlotte Nash said India had borrowed a few things from the US Constitution but the US had borrowed other things. “We have borrowed your talents, and your skills.India has brought together lot of diversity under one flag and we are also working on that,” she said.
Antony Thaliath, Executive Director, Gandhi Foundation of USA, said the corner stone of a successful democracy is a fearless and proactive press. Quoting Gandhiji, he added: “A journalist’s peculiar function is to read the mind of the country and to give definite and fearless expression to that mind.”
Thaliath said Gandhiji tactfully used this value of the press and utilized it in his freedom fight against the British for India’s independence. India’s free press played a major role in nurturing and shaping that young democracy. “I am sure the Indian American press can play a similar role in strengthening the Indian American community in their quest for equality and greater achievements and contributions within this nation, and strengthening the image of India.”
He congratulated the IAPC for carrying the torch into a new century “where being Indian is no longer defined by physical and geographical boundaries, but by a global culture and a global citizenship.”
“In this country we all will have a shared future. Our children will live in a global community. And I believe the unified dream of love and tolerance preached by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King can be the guiding light to move our global community forward, to build mutual understanding and respect for each other, to show how much more we can do together than apart,” Thaliath said.
Narender Reddy, Republican activist and community leader, admitted that Atlanta has far too many Indian organizations, but welcomed the IAPC “as it is the first of its kind to promote the noblest ideals of journalism in the US.”
Reddy said he was concerned about the biased state of the media here. “News is not news any more but the opinions of the TV anchors and press correspondents. In the end, the ‘truthfulness’ in presenting the news to the people is totally corrupted or mis-interpreted.” He quoted Thomas Jefferson who had famously said, “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers,” and added that the media should endeavor to present news with integrity and transparency.
P.I. Joy, CEO of Joy TV and business entrepreneur, reminisced about the financial crisis of 2007, when many people were financially crippled and gave up. But some faced the challenges and recovered from the crisis. “It is our obligation and duty to support and help the India Consulate and also get involved in the political process in our adopted land for our voices to be heard, and to follow it up with accountable action,” he said.
Veena Rao, editor of NRI Pulse Newspaper spoke about social justice and individual rights in the present times. “Our community has come a long way since 1950s. We pride ourselves in being a successful community. But along with progress comes responsibility. Freedom means having a voice- to stand up for our rights and face our challenges as one unified group. It is up to us- journalists, students, parents and our elected officials to look out for each other, to know our rights, speak up against discrimination and instances of racism and bullying in schools,” she said.
“This country belongs to each of us. Embracing diverse cultures and ideas is an American tradition that has made this country one of the greatest in the world,” she added. Quoting Michelle Obama’s final remarks as First Lady, Rao said: “Do not ever let anyone make you feel like you don’t matter or that you don’t have a place in our American story- because you do. And you have the right to be exactly who you are.”
Earlier in the evening, around 150 invited guests exchanged greetings, enjoyed the appetizers, admired the beautiful Rajasthani oil paintings displayed in the hall, and watched the slide show of Republic Day celebration in New Delhi. The engaging program began with an introduction by IAPC Vice President and emcee Mini Sudhir Nair, who is associated with leading TV Channels in India.
Nair spoke briefly about the similarities in the US and India’s Constitutions. “Basic freedoms like freedom of the press and freedom of speech are guaranteed in both countries,” she said. She further spoke about IAPC and its objectives.
After soulful renditions of the National Anthems of the US and India, IAPC, Atlanta chapter’s treasurer Ninan Kodiyattu sang an elevating prayer song. Mountview High school students entertained the guests with a zesty patriotic dance.
Emcee Nair introduced her two assistants Shiny Aboobacker and Kalyani Sudhir.
IAPC, Atlanta secretary Jamaludheen Mustankhan welcomed and thanked all the dignitaries and attendees.
In his Presidential address, IAPC Atlanta President Dominic Chackonal informed the audience that IAPC-Atlanta Chapter’s opening ceremony was performed by Deputy Consul, D.V.Singh, on September 2, 2016.
IAPC was formed in 2013 for the purpose of enhancing standards of journalism, Chackonal added. It will promote cooperation and fellowship in media; offer scholarships to enhance skills and proficiencies and encourage young people to consider journalism as their professions. IAPC is committed to unbiased news coverage of all events. It will also recognize and honor those Indo-Americans who give outstanding service to the community. IAPC has already organized three International Conferences-in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut. IAPC already has eight chapters.
“Unity in diversity is the theme of the evening,” he added.
Award winners were recognized and felicitated during the evening at the hands of Consul General Nagesh Singh, Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, Antony Thaliath, Narender Reddy, P.I.Joy, Veena Rao, Mahadev Desai, Anjali Chhabria and Shaveta Jain.
Listed are the award and contest winners of the evening:
Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr.Sujatha Reddy- founder and chief organizer of 35 SAI Health Fairs so far.
Humanitarian Award: Dr.Jay Sampat (The award was received by P.I.Joy as Dr. Sampat was unable to attend).
‘Businessman of the Year 2016’Award: Satwant Singh- CEO of Doaba Brokers LLC.
‘IAPC Entrepreneur Award’: P.I. Joy, Founder and CEO of Think Development Systems, Inc.
IAPC Award of Honor: Two Awards were bestowed under this Category.
(i)Mustafa Ajmeri. Well known social activist and avid promoter of performing arts.
(ii) Sabu Chemmalakuzzy. Dedicated volunteer in the Indo-American community.
Media Excellence Award: Parthiv Parekh. (The Award was received by Mehul Parekh as Parthiv was unable to attend). Parthiv Parekh is founding partner and editor-in-chief of Khabar’ magazine in Atlanta and also an eminent journalist.
Photography Contest- Theme “People in Nature”- Winner: Sibay Karikkampally
Essay Writing Contest. The subject was “Why do you like or dislike Social media’. Winner: Joshua Mathew
Kerala born poet Subini Lawrence’s book ‘LA Reflections’, was released by Consul General Singh and Chairwoman Nash.
While the attendees were enjoying the delicious dinner, students entertained them with scintillating dances, including a captivating dance to Gandhiji’s favorite bhajan “Vaishnava jan to tene kahiye”. Versatile singer Ninan also added to the evening’s fun with his favorite songs.
Alex Thomas moved the vote of thanks.
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