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July 10, 1999
Govinda Grand Marshal At India Day Parade
A P Kamath
Continuing the tradition of inviting Bollywood movie stars to be the grand marshal of the annual India Day Parade, this year the Federation of Indian Associations has invited Govinda to lead the parade which could attract more than 30,000 people.
Previous grand marshals have included Raj Kapoor, Sridevi, Meenakshi Seshadri and Shatrugan Sinha. In recent years, the parade has been attracting about 25,000 people.
FIA's newly elected president Yash Paul Soi, who has organized several Asha Bhosle shows in New York, says he has invited the singer to join the parade. The parade is slated for August 15.
Among the politicians who have confirmed their attendance is Garry Ackerman, member of the House of Representatives and a New Yorker. Congressman Ackerman is one of the fiercest critics of Pakistan and has demanded on many occasions in recent days that Islamabad should be declared a terrorist state if the guerrillas in Kargil are not ordered back from the Indian territory.
The organizers of the parade this year plan to ask for more security. Several Pakistani organizations as well as Khalistani groups are reportedly planning to disrupt the parade.
FIA, which has organized the parade for nearly two decades, expects a record crowd this year to show solidarity with Indian efforts to defend its territory.
For Soi, the parade will be the lunching pad for many activities. For instance, he announced last week that FIA would begin working towards creating an India Center that will help battered Indian women, victims of crime and abused children.
A cremation center is also being planned, he said. The center, expected to be constructed on the outskirts of New York city, will have a cremation ground. There are more than 200,000 Hindus in New York tristate area from India, Trinidad, Guyana and Fiji.
This will be an entirely new direction for FIA, known mostly for its India Day parades and pro-immigrant lobbying efforts in Washington.
The India Day Parade itself has erupted into controversies when Salga, a predominantly Indian gay and lesbian organization, was banned from the parade on the ground that it calls itself South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association and includes non-Indians. Similarly Sakhi, a south Asian women's empowerment group, also faced problems from the parade organizers. Like Salga, Sakhi too is predominantly Indian American.
Soi wants to make FIA much more inclusive, said an insider.
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