x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Hundreds celebrate India's independence at embassy in UAE

Independence Day, observed annually on August 15, is a national holiday in India commemorating the nation's independence from Britain on August 15, 1947.

School girls dance to a patriotic song at the Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi to celebrate India’s Independence Day yesterday. Ravindranath K / The National
School girls dance to a patriotic song at the Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi to celebrate India’s Independence Day yesterday. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // Many hundreds gathered at the Indian embassy this morning to celebrate India’s 67th Independence Day.

Families made up a large proportion of almost 1,000 people who gathered for an 8am flag-raising ceremony, with many waving their own tricolour Indian banners.

Pupils from Abu Dhabi Indian School and St Joseph’s School in the capital sang the Indian national anthem and performed traditional dances at the embassy’s auditorium.

Independence Day is a national holiday in India commemorating the country’s independence from British rule on August 15, 1947.

India attained freedom following an independence movement noted for largely non-violent resistance and civil disobedience, led by the Indian National Congress.

The Indian ambassador, M?K Lokesh, hoisted the country’s flag.

He also read a speech from Indian president, Pranab Mukherjee, which was given on the eve of Independence Day.

“At the dawn of our independence, we lit the glowing lamp of modernity and equitable economic growth. To keep this lamp aflame, our highest priority has to be the elimination of poverty,” the speech stated. “Though a declining trend in the poverty rate is clearly visible, our fight against this scourge is far from over. India has the talent, ability and the resources to overcome this challenge.”

Sporting a tricolour dress designed by a friend, Anju Treesa, a Grade 11 pupil at St Joseph’s, was accompanied by her mother, who watched her perform a cultural dance.

The teenager, who was also due to attend evening celebrations at the India Social and Cultural Centre on Mina Road, said: “I feel pride today, and I’m delighted to perform on such a historical occasion – Independence Day.

“We are here in a foreign land, but it is good that we gather and mark the day with people from the community.”

Soly John, a civil engineer, took her two children to the embassy, arriving at 7am.

“It is a moment to celebrate what the heroes of the freedom movement achieved 66 years ago,” she said.

“I brought my son and daughter so that they can learn about the importance of the day.”

Vikas Rawat, a Grade 11 pupil at Abu Dhabi Indian School, enjoyed the celebration, but said there was a better atmosphere in India. “If you want to shout national slogans here outside auditoriums, you can’t,” he said.

“Running down the streets in groups of friends holding flags is something different, which we never get here.”

Tejas Rajan, a Grade 10 pupil at the same school, was waving an Indian flag. “It is a special day for us as we got freedom from British rule on this day in 1947,” he said.

“I am happy to mark the day here in the UAE but I miss the festivities of back home. Usually, when I am in India, I fly kites and dance in groups and then enjoy traditional cuisine at home.

“My mother is going to prepare some special sweets and dishes ?today.”

Rajat Chandel, also of the Abu Dhabi Indian School, said he had learnt about his country’s struggle for independence.

“Freedom fighters sacrificed their lives to get us freedom, so we remember that day,” he said.

“But I miss the fireworks, the series of performances and sports activities [in India]. We just gather at the mission, and conclude with hoisting the flag and a few performances.

“I would like to go back home and watch the television to enjoy the celebrations going on there in India.”

In Dubai, Sanjay Verma, India’s consul general, unfurled the Indian flag at the consulate, followed by traditional dancing by school pupils.

Flag-raising and dancing were also seen at Indian social centres across the UAE today.