Diverse communities of Bedford celebrated the 74th anniversary of Indian Independence on 15 August.
The event was organised by Bandhan Bedford, a group of diverse women of Indian origin supported by an Anglo-Indian charity SEVA Trust UK along with many other local charitable, voluntary, community and multi-faith organisations. .
It was a unique event, a combination of virtual and an outdoor ceremony involving unfurling of the Indian flag broadcasted live from the old Town Hall. The online Zoom celebration was attended by around 200 people.
The outdoor ceremony was conducted in accordance with Government’s social distancing guidelines. It was attended by the Mayor of Bedford Dave Hodgson, High Sheriff of Bedfordshire Susan Lousada, Chairperson of Bandhan Bedford Dr Vinita Manjure, SEVA Trust Chairman Cllr Charan Sekhon, Dr Balbir Singh Gabri along with Bandhan Team members.
Leaders and representatives of Bedford based voluntary, charitable and faith groups addressed the event via Zoom that included a colourful celebration involving patriotic songs, dance and multicultural performances signifying rich and diverse Indian culture. SEVA Trust Youth Group Leader Arpan Sekhon shared details of Covid19 support project for the Indian students and their instrumental role in initiating India day celebrations in Bedford. She said “Over 700 people attended the first ever Indian republic day celebrations held at Bedford Corn Exchange in 2016. We are proud to work with Bandhan and other groups. We all need to play our part in supporting communities, strengthening integration, community cohesion and diversity of our great town.”
Welcoming the guests at the Old Town Dr Vinita Manjure said ‘With Independence, freedom and liberty, comes an inevitable responsibility. Those of us whose ethnicity is described as “British Indian” have a huge responsibility to our country of origin and the adopted land in which we live. Each and every one of us should consider ourselves as ambassadors to promote our rich heritage, culture and achievements”
In an online address by the Indian High Commissioner Gaitri Issar Kumar congratulated all on this special day. She outlined the significant contributions of the Indian diaspora towards the British economy and their vital role during the Covid19 crisis.
In her address, the High Sherriff of Bedfordshire Susan Lousada paid tribute to the Indian community for their huge contribution and support during the Covid19 pandemic and showing great care and compassion towards all communities.
Extending his best wishes, Bedford Mayor Dave Hodgson emphasised the need to follow public safely guidelines and said ‘Due to the ongoing pandemic we are not able to celebrate this day at the same level we did last year. There is clear evidence of disproportionate and high impact of Covid19 on the Asian communities and we all need to be vigilant and follow guidelines to keep everyone safe.’’
In a live address from Indian High Commission London, Rohan Samant (First Secretary of Political Affairs and Immigration) said “We are proud to share this special day with Bedford Communities. On behalf of the Indian High Commission, I would like to thank Bandhan Group, SEVA Trust UK and local organisations for their exemplary work supporting Indian students and local communities with food, accommodation, job opportunities and providing wide range help and guidance. This is a great example of the Indian diaspora acting as a living bridge between the UK and India, as our honourable PM Shri Narendra Modi emphasises, I am proud to share this special day with you all and will look forward to joining in along with the High Commissioner for next year’s event.”
After the flag ceremony, Bandhan Group sang the Indian National Anthem followed by vote of thanks by Mrs Suman Vorha.