Indian current consul-general Dinesh Bhatia seen with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne
Indian current consul-general Dinesh Bhatia seen with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne
It will be to the day 20 years that the Indo-Canadian community will once again be meeting at the historic Nathan Phillips Square to celebrate 70th anniversary of India’s independence on August 15.
 
 

The first time the community met there was on 15th August 1997 to celebrate ‘India ’50,” which was the 50th anniversary of India’s independence. It was a historic day 20 years back when for the first time India’s national flag was unfurled at the the Toronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square is part of the City Hall.

 

Over 30,000 strong who had then gathered walked for the first time from the City Hall to the 6-lane University Avenue with its magnificent Bank. Insurance companies and massive hospital buildings. It was awe inspiring for all those who held aloft massive Indian national flags – also the Canadian Maple Leaf – with an elephant at the head of the parade. There was city mayor Mel Lasman, federal and provincial ministers and elected officials, all then were part of India 50 celebrations.

Those celebrations were organized by the Indo-Canadian Advisory Group, an organization that was established specifically for India 50 celebrations and other national events. I would know firsthand as I was its co-convener and headed with other colleagues all the festivities that subsequently took place at the historic Harbor Front.
Rajiv Bhatia, then India’s Consul-General in Toronto, provided all the support possible to ensure success of the historic day.

 

Now Dinesh Bhatia heads the Indian Consulate and he gives an impression of an outstanding public relations man – same as Rajiv Bhatia who has now retired from India’s foreign service – and this writer knows first-hand how he has from his first day last February, when he was posted to Toronto, spent hours making lists of people who count in the community, as well as social and religious organizations, and is reaching out to them.

The first strong signal came when he organized the Independence Day reception last year – close to 500-600 guests were invited. That reception was quite a success. Dinesh Bhatia is naturally an essential part of the forthcoming celebrations that are spearheaded in collaboration with Panorama India.

 

Its president Anu Srivastava said they are confident of having 50,000 people for India Day Festival and Grand Parade 2017.

 

Toronto’s Sikh community, of course, has often gathered at the Nathan Phillips Square for the Baisakhi celebrations in April but not the entire Indo-Canadian community, and not for India’s national day celebrations.

This year’s grand parade starting from the Nathan Phillips Sqaure will be nostalgic for me, for many of my colleagues who in 1997 spent with me days and days to ensure its success – which was the community’s first most ambitious initiative.

Now that the community in the country is 1.2-million strong, with 65% of them in the Greater Toronto and adjoining cities living, it should without a doubt be possible for the organizers to ensure participation of 50,000+ people and they too, same as in 1997, will walk with their heads high, all saying to themselves “yes, Canada is our adopted homeland but India, Bharat Mata, is still our motherland.” We are proud of both.

 

Vande Matram will reverberate on August 15 at the historic Toronto City Hall and the participants, also the mainstream communities, will witness a number of moist eyes for sure.

 

(Ajit Jain can be contacted at ajit.jain0410@gmail.com)

 

Anu Srivastava, President of Panorama India and organizer of forthcoming 70th anniversary of India's independence celebrations

Anu Srivastava, President of Panorama India and organizer of forthcoming 70th anniversary of India's independence celebrations

Rajiv Bhatia, who was India's Consul-General in Toronto in 1997, is seen with Nelson Mandela. He met him as India's High Commissioner

Rajiv Bhatia, who was India's Consul-General in Toronto in 1997, is seen with Nelson Mandela. He met him as India's High Commissioner
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