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Ruckus at NRI meet disrupts award giving ceremony
George Iype in Hyderabad | January 09, 2006 19:51 IST
Last Updated: January 10, 2006 12:17 IST
The Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards ceremony at the end of the three-day annual conclave of overseas Indians in Hyderabad on Monday was marred by the ruckus that a group of NRI delegates created at the venue.
As President A P J Abdul Kalam was distributing the awards to 15 overseas Indians at the valedictory function of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, an NRI delegate shouted from the auditorium saying that one of the awardees is a hardcore supporter of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
The controversial award winner, according to a section of NRI delegates, is Dr Sudhir Parikh, a practicing consulting allergist, who till recently served as the president of the Federation of Indian Associations in the United States.
"He is a Modi supporter. He is a Godhra supporter," shouted Shaktinath Chaudhury, an NRI delegate from America as President Kalam was conferring the award to Dr Parikh.
Police officials took Chaudhury and a couple of his supporters outside the auditorium, creating considerable commotion among the participants.
Commissioner of Police S Singh said they have made preventive arrest of Chaudhury and two others for disturbing a peaceful meet where the President of India was the chief guest.
A number of supporters of Chaudhury and Dr Parikh soon came out of the auditorium, arguing with the police.
"I do not know why the police have detained somebody for shouting in the venue. That is not proper," said Kishore Kaul, the president of the Indo-American Advisory Council. "Everyone has freedom of expression, and those who make such an expression should not be prosecuted by the police," he said.
But Chaudhury remained unfazed. He said it was totally wrong on part of the government of India to confer the prestigious Pravasi Bharatitya Samman Award to Dr Parikh.
"He is a hard core supporter of Modi and his pro-Hindu ideologies. Dr. Parikh publicly supported the Godhra carnage. It is a shame that he is conferred the award," Chaudhury told rediff.com.
He said civil society groups have taken exception to the government's decision to honour Dr. Parikh.
He said Dr. Parikh was a staunch supporter of Modi and was among those few influential NRIs to back his idea of launching "Gaurav Yatra". The yatra was finally dropped in the face of widespread protests.
"The act of honouring such a person has made a mockery of all efforts of peace activists sending a wrong signal to minorities across the country," Chaudhury said.
But Dr. Parikh said it is too cheap from the part of few delegates to question his secular credentials. "I have worked for the Indian American community all these years. I am honoured by the Indian government's gesture in conferring me with the award," he told rediff.com.
He said he has used the political dynamics in Washington to give the Indian Americans a real voice in American politics by supporting the creation of India Caucus, both in the US Congress and the Senate.
Dr. Parikh is currently the president of the Indian American Forum for Political Education, and he has been part of high-level delegations to India on various subjects.
Narayana Reddy, an NRI delegate, watching the incident, said it has only exposed the unity among the overseas Indians in the US. "This is part of the Indian culture. They fight among themselves wherever they are," Reddy said.
Photo courtsey: M Aleem Uddi
Complete Coverage: Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2006