FIA to erect Gandhi statue at Devon Ave

FIA President addressing Banquet guests

FIA President addressing Banquet guests

CHICAGO: Minhaj Akhtar, President of the Federation of Indian Associations Chicago said here that after the relative less encouraging showing at India Day Parade and the next day Banquet, he was hugely encouraged by overwhelming community support to a proposal to erect Mahatma Gandhi Statue on Gandhi Marg – Devon Avenue. He said he is determined to see that this dream of the community and also that of FIA comes true by the end of his term, again with the community support.

“Associations may come and associations may go in Chicagoland, but my FIA has been there for three decades and it will continue to serve the community. Establishing Gandhiji’s statue at a suitable place on Devon Avenue will be a singular achievement of FIA and we at FIA are determined to get it done,” he told this paper.

“Dr Deepkant Vyas, a St Louis based Indian community activist and a big time help to many a community project, has agreed to lend a big helping hand with an initial donation of $100,000 and I am sure the Chicago community will not lag behind in picking up the bill for incidental costs and maintenance expenses,” Minhas said.

Touching about the poor attendance at the Parade, he said that one has to bear in mind that the weather in the morning was awfully bad – raining heavily – across Chicago and suburbs. This prevented many from suburbs or far of Chicago places to come to the Parade. Secondly, heavy road repair work on Devon Avenue, that has been there for the past many months, also acted as a dissuading factor.

“Another contributory factor was the choice of the date for Parade. It was not August 15 or August 16 which usually is the case. For tactical reasons we decided for August 20 and that may have upset come community members,” he said.

For relative thin attendance at the Banquet, he said he could not vouch for some of the members buying the table and then not showing up. Secondly, a good number really got disenchanted with a change in venue and serving of liquor. “It should have been a dry day and our own people need to uphold and pitch for our values,” he observed. He cited his deft handling of Republic Day celebrations in January to buttress his claim.

Minhaj said that he is for the unity and stability of India and Indians here. “We can have this if we respect each other’s core values – religious and social beliefs and practices. I am one for that. We Indians here should also be helping the cause of our less fortunate brethren in India,” he said. Again buttressing his claim, he said it was Nizam of Hyderabad who donated 5000 kg of gold when the country badly needed during mid-sixties war with neighbors.

He respects non-meat eating Indians for their strong vegetarian beliefs. Even Prophet Mohammed was for milk and not meat as the latter is believed to be a disease carrier. Kisan and farm laborers could eat meat but others should use discretion, the Prophet advised, according to Minhaj who often conducts sermons at Chicago mosques.

“We may have Matbhed (difference in opinions) but we should not have Manbhed (estranged minds). We have to see humanity as a whole and not in sections, and we have to serve this humanity with all our mind and heart,” he said deprecating dissensions over small issues.

Harish Rao & Surendra Ullal