Photo credit: Ravi Ponangi and Siva Kumar
Atlanta, GA, December 16, 2021: The Gandhi Foundation USA (GFUSA), in association with the Global Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora (GKPD), I am Buddha Foundation and numerous other media and community organizations came together in Atlanta to “Walk for Peace” for Kashmir, India on Monday, December 6 at the hallowed grounds of King National Historic Park.
Homage at the Gandhi Statue, Atlanta: The event started with paying floral/garland tributes by the distinguished guests Hon. Dr. Swati Kulkarni, India’s National Film Award Winners Mr. Vivek Agnihotri, actress Ms. Pallavi Joshi, daughter Malaika, officials of the National Park Service, members of GFUSA and numerous community and media leaders to the resplendent and majestic life-size statue of Mahatma Gandhi. The Statue sculpted by Padma Shri Ram Sutar adorns the entrance of one of the most revered National Parks.
This National Historic Park in downtown Atlanta, composes of the Gandhi Statue, the King Visitor Center, the revered Ebenezer Baptist Church (the current US Senator Rev. R Warnock is the administrative head/Pastor of this Church), the King Crypts, The Eternal Flame, the King Center (Administrative Building), the Freedom Hall (which houses the Gandhi Room) and the King Birth home.
Executive Director Antony Thaliath of GFUSA welcomed the gathering and invited Chairman GFUSA Subash Razdan to preside at the devotional service at the Gandhi Statue and the Walk for Peace for Kashmir.
Razdan reminisced the nostalgic memories of the installation, and the dedication/unveiling the Gandhi Statue by Ambassador Andrew Young, in 1998 on a cold blistering January morning with over a thousand in attendance. He thanked the Indian Embassy, India Council for Cultural Relations and various community organizations as well as National Park Service, for making the installation of the Gandhi Statue in Atlanta a reality. This monument (Gandhi Statue) has served as a beacon and linkage with Dr. King Jr. for non-violence and peace for a million tourists who visit the King Park annually.
Razdan introduced the Guest of Honor Vivek Agnihotri to bring his special remarks. Hon. Agnihotri emphasized the influence Gandhi had on Dr. King and thus the virtual hand guiding the civil rights movement of USA. He added, “The movie ‘The Kashmir Files’ condemns the violence and underscores the right to justice as the most fundamental pillar in a democracy, which the Kashmiri Pandits are yet to receive.”
Mr. Agnihotri, his insights and perspectives through his lenses of The Kashmir Files, emphasizes the oneness of the Indian Civilization that emerged from the sacred land of Kashmir and the immense contributions from Kashmir in the field of arts, aesthetics, music, literature, etc., etc. The destruction of Kashmir thus is the annihilation of knowledge and the world should know what humanity lost!
Razdan then invited celebrated film and television actress Pallavi Joshi for her own brief remarks. She expressed her thanks for the historic opportunity to be able to pay her homage to the two greatest leaders of peace; Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. King at the most hallowed grounds for civil rights in the world! She recalled those cherished memories when she had actually acted as Kasturba Gandhi (wife of Mahatma Gandhi) in Shyam Benegal’s 1995 movie “The Making of the Mahatma”.
The stage was now set for India’s Consul General Dr. Swati Kulkarni to bring her keynote remarks. Dr. Kulkarni, a career Indian Foreign Service (IFS) diplomat of India since 1995, holds a medical degree from India. Dr. Kulkarni enlightened with her keynote remarks appreciating the good work done by the Indo-American community and the phenomenal support by partners King Center and the officials of National Park Service. “Many world leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, etc. were influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s techniques of non-violence. We have to rededicate ourselves to their teachings and philosophy,” Dr. Kulkarni mentioned.
She further added, “Today, December 6th we celebrate, here at the Gandhi Statue, the Mahaparinirvan Diwas (highest peace and happiness day to mark the death anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar) in company of the distinguished Bollywood celebrities and with members of the Indian Diaspora. Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Ambedkar are India’s tall leaders. Both are extremely important national leaders and an extraordinary inspirational force for all of us. Both leaders are revered by many as great nation builder – Mahatma Gandhi as father of the nation and Dr. Ambedkar as father of the constitution of India. Both leaders have played pivotal role for women upliftment and strived for equality, to have a castles society. Both the leaders tirelessly worked to eliminate social discrimination, economic alienation, and political exclusion. Both firmly believed in democratic values, republican values, and industrial development and above all both leaders are symbol of hope, freedom, courage, and dignity to all human being. Let us reflect therefore to their noble ideals and their contribution to the nation and society. ”
Mari Hayden, Supervisor of the National Park Service expressed her greetings, underscoring the importance of the special linking of the King Center and the Gandhi Foundation with the common message espoused by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. King, exemplified by the presence of the Gandhi Statue in the King Park.
In his Vote of Thanks, Razdan remarked, “Atlanta is a city of peace and social justice because of Dr. King and his respect for Mahatma Gandhi message of Satyagraha. We are grateful for the partnerships of the National Park Service who facilitated the installation of the Gandhi Statue in 1998, the Embassy of India for arranging the donation of the Gandhi Statue in 1997, the King Center and the invaluable role of Mrs. Coretta Scott King in promoting Gandhi’s awareness by establishing the Gandhi Room in the Freedom Hall of the King Center in 1987 and now presently the unflinching support of the Consul General of India, Dr. Kulkarni. A special thanks to GKPD, a global Kashmiri Pandit civil society for their commitment to bring awareness of the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir over these past 30 years. ”
Walk for Peace for Kashmir: From Gandhi Statue to King Crypts!
The Walk for Peace for the assembly, started with the rendering of Gandhi’s favorite Bhajan, ‘Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram’. Honoring the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, the momentous “Walk for Peace for Kashmir” started from the Life Size Gandhi Statue, through the famous Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Eternal Fame, ending at the King Crypts (Dr. M.L. King Jr. and his wife Late Coretta Scott King) in the endearing memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At the Crypts, the distinguished guests paid their homage to the Kings with floral bouquets!
The Indian American community left the hallowed grounds convinced the torch of King and Gandhi continues to be the lighthouse for humanity and futility and the insanity of terrorism in Kashmir! Our hearts go out to all (Hindus and Muslims) the bereaved families who have been direct victims of the senseless killings! Time to heal together!
Premiere Screening of the movie, “The Kashmir Files”
Earlier on Sunday, the much-awaited film written-directed by Mr. Agnihotri, “The Kashmir Files” had a sold out premiere show in Atlanta followed by a VIP dinner. Surinder Dhar and Sridhar of Atlanta supported by many Georgia leaders and the Kashmiri community of Georgia organized the film screenings in Atlanta as part of the month-long special screenings in the US. The true story of the cleansing of the Kashmiri Hindus depicted courageously, brought back chilling memories of the Kashmir genocide of January 19, 1990 when hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave their homes overnight and with many killed mercilessly! Heart rendering violence against the Hindus of Kashmir has left the community in a state of shock and anguish since 1990! Courageous Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri along with celebrated actress, an epitome of grace, Pallavi Joshi, Malaika and the entire respected team, took up the undaunted challenge, carried extensive research, and transformed the facts beautifully into an epic historical film on screen.
The exodus drama features Mithun Chakraborty, Anupam Kher, Darshan Kumar, Pallavi Joshi, Chinmay Mandlekar and many others.
Produced by Zee Studios, I AM Buddha Films (Agarwals) and the Agnihotris, the film “The Kashmir Files” is to be released in theaters worldwide on Jan 26, 2022 with support of GKPD leaders Dr. Surinder Kaul, Sunil Hali and many others globally!