Sunday, June 4

Springfield celebrates Indian Independence Day with downtown observance

Seventy-five years ago, Jawaharlal Nehru said to his people, “At the stroke of the midnight hour India will awake to life and freedom.”

With that, the first prime minister of the independent nation of India raised the new nation’s green and orange flag in Delhi, and India was no longer a colony of the United Kingdom.

Seventy-five years later, nearly four hundred Indian citizens and members of the Indian Association of Greater Springfield cheered as the Indian national flag was symbolically raised at a special ceremony on the sixth-floor terrace of the Marriot Hotel in downtown Springfield.

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno issued a proclamation declaring Aug. 15, 2022, as Indian Independence Day in Springfield, and said that even after raising the flag on a small pole at the Marriot celebration, he would formally raise the flag outside City Hall Monday morning , the first time ever the Indian flag has flown over Court Square.

“The City of Springfield is honored and proud to be the home of a vibrant Indian American community,” he said as he and Deputy Consul General at the New York consulate Dr. Varun Jeph pulled the cords that raised the flag.

“The Independence Day of India is not only celebrated there but by the entire Indian diaspora. It has been taken to every nook and corner of the world, but especially here in the United States. We are very proud of our 4.5 million strong diasporas,” Jeph said.

The afternoon celebration featured traditional Indian food, music and dancing, and crowds of people dressed in traditional Indian garb, something Jeph said reflects the strong attachment the Indian people have for their homeland even after emigrating to the United States.

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“I think the roots that the Indian diaspora has with the motherland has remained strong as ever,” he said. “At the same time, they have integrated well into the larger social fabric of the United States. They are a living bridge between India and the US retaining their value, their cultures, their traditions, and at the same time being very much American at their hearts. That is the beauty of the Indian diaspora here.”

Dinesh Patel came to the United States in 1999 and has since established himself in the hotel industry in Western Massachusetts. He and his family own several hotels across the Pioneer Valley and in downtown Springfield, including the Tower Square hotel, now under renovation with plans to reopen in September. The hotel will formally operate under the Marriott banner again, Patel said. Under its old ownership, the business parted ways with the Marriott chain and operated as a boutique hotel.

Patel said he and his family get good support from Springfield and its institutions, including Mayor Sarno.

“He has shown a lot of support for us, and under his leadership, we have invested in the hockey team and in community works,” Patel said.

Vid Mitta is also an Indian American businessman. He said many highly educated and qualified Indians look to the opportunities the United States and other developed countries have for entrepreneurs.

“America is the land of opportunities for everyone,” he said. “But it’s not just the US People from India go all over the world, to Europe, to Africa. Any country you go to our presence is there.”

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But Mitta said the US is especially inviting to businesspeople.

“This is a beautiful country. Everyone has equal opportunity. There is a lot of diversity and at the same time a lot of unity. People are encouraging and helpful. Without the support we get from existing people and policymakers it would not be possible. We want to thank everyone that you have helped. We are all Americans at this time, so we are all in this together.”

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