HASBROUCK HEIGHTS – India’s Republic Day was celebrated Sunday at the Elks Lodge where more than 100 gathered to hear about the South Asian country’s history, its constitution and the importance of continuing to safeguard civil rights for all people.
The annual event, organized by the Indian American Muslim Council, commemorates the enactment of the India’s constitution on January 26, 1950. Organizers reminded the audience that the constitution grants equal rights to all residents of the country, and that it’s the duty of every Indian, whether they live in the country or abroad, to protect those rights for everyone.
“When we see an injustice happen, when we see something wrong happen, and when we see the nation taking the wrong course it is our duty to stand up and call it out,” said Mohammad Yusuf Dadani, regional vice president of the organization. “Not doing so, and knowing that the wrong thing is happening would be the utmost injustice.”
The Indian American Muslim Council formed in 2002 and has a dozen chapters nationwide, said Shaheen Khateeb, a Teaneck resident and the national president of the organization. The council’s mission is to advocate for peace and social justice. The group also strives to raise awareness of the plight of American Muslims living in the United States and of all minority groups in India, organizers said.
Muslims are a minority in India, comprising about 15 percent of the approximately 1.2 billion people who live in the country, Dadani said. Still, that means there are about 180 million Muslims living in India, organizers said.
“They are the minority in India but by no means are they small numbers,” said Matin Shaikh, president of the council’s New Jersey chapter.
Farheen Sultana, of Teaneck, commended the group’s work to help people who are being mistreated and said that she brought her children to the event so they could gain an understanding of the importance of “humanity” and working for “justice” for everyone.
“I want them to learn that they should help people not only in India but other parts of the world as well,” she said.
The event, which drew families from throughout the state, was also a way to help youngsters, many who were born in the United States, to learn about their roots and their Indian culture, organizers said.
Shamsu Aman of Boonton brought his family in the hopes that his 5-year-old son, Suhail, would get to know and play with some other children whose parents are from India. His friend, Farookh Azeez, a Secaucus resident, said that was the same reason that he felt it was important to bring his wife and two children.
“We want them to know about all the celebrations and festivities of India, so they don’t ignore their Indian culture,” Azeez said.
More than a dozen girls, wearing brightly-colored and glittery saris, and several boys, wearing traditional Indian clothing, participated in a “fancy dress contest.” Afterward the children were quizzed on Indian history, culture, and its famous people.
New Jersey is home to 292,256 Asian Indians, according to 2010 census figures. Bergen County accounted for 24,973 of them, while Passaic County is home to 10,863.