NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Indian-Americans from the New York area marched in Sunday’s India Day parade with pride — and a gripe: alleged corruption in their homeland’s governing party.
“Remove corruption, save India” read signs hoisted by some of the thousands of spectators lining the Madison Avenue route of the biggest Indian parade in the United States.
The grand marshal of the 31st annual celebration was “Bollywood” star actress Rani Mukherji. The president of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, was an honored guest.
Mukherji was mobbed by fans when she arrived for the 10-block parade down Madison, starting at 38th Street.
“I feel as if I’m in India today!” she shouted out to the crowd — some of at least 200,000 people of Indian origin living in New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut, according to U.S. Census figures.
Dozens of floats and marching groups reflected India’s cultural and religious diversity.
Members of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organization were dressed as angels — in white, with wings attached — to proclaim their message of world peace and harmony.
Hundreds of other spectators took a more strident stance — in support of Anna Hazare, an activist on a hunger strike to demand that Indian lawmakers pass a bill creating an anti-corruption watchdog with authority over the judiciary and prime minister’s office.
“We feel India now has one of the most corrupt governments ever,” said Atul Kumar, an official of the Jersey City, N.J.-based Bihar Society, a nonprofit representing natives of the eastern Indian state of Bihar.
A float bearing a canon represented another flashpoint in Indian history: violence against the Sikhs, starting with the deaths of 66 Sikhs under 19th century British rule.
The official theme of this year’s parade was “My Earth, My Home” — an effort to raise awareness of environmental pollution resulting from India’s burgeoning industries.
“India is getting better at going ‘green’ — with regulations more tightly enforced by the government,” said Kurang Shah, executive vice president of the Federation of Indian Associations, a tri-state umbrella group that organized the march.
Last year, Jagdeo was awarded a United Nations’ “Champions of the Earth” award, the world body’s highest honor for environmental leadership.
The president of the Caribbean nation with a large ethnic Indian population told the crowd, “India is alive and well in Guyana.”
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