Orange County’s Indian community celebrates the 75th Republic Day – Orange County Register

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Around 50 students, faculty and staff came to watch the national flag of India rise at Chapman University’s International Peace Plaza on a gloomy Thursday, Jan. 25. The orange, white and green flag flapped in the breeze, against a dark sky that cleared just before the ceremony started.

The ceremony took place at 10:30 a.m., the time it would been midnight in India — making Chapman University in downtown Orange the “first in the nation amongst all universities to celebrate the 75th Republic Day,” officials said before the event.

“India’s Republic Day is a day to celebrate India’s adoption of its constitution,” said Pradip K. Shukla, a professor of business and economics, on Thursday. “(This) is a historic occasion and India is the world’s largest democracy.”

One of three national Indian holidays, Jan. 25 was the first Republic Day celebrated on Chapman University’s campus, according to Shukla. Other holidays include the Diwali Festival of Lights, and Holi, the Festival of Colors.

Chapman University has over 80 countries represented in its student body, according to spokesperson Rachel Morrison. Thirteen percent of Chapman students are from India.

Orange County itself has a thriving Indian community, with Irvine having the highest population of Asian Indian residents, according to the latest U.S. Census data from 2020. The cities of Anaheim, Tustin, and Buena Park each have the next highest populations of Indians.

Other university-wide efforts to honor the holiday included an award ceremony in mid-January, which recognized Indian community and business leaders, a discussion on U.S.-Indian trade with previous U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Juster, and a panel discussion on India and U.S. trade with nonprofit The IndUS Entrepreneurs.

Chapman University received recognition from former L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of India, with a video congratulating Chapman University for these events.

“We are witnesses of India thriving as a nation, but we’re also participants in the amazing growth of the United States and India partnership,” Garcetti said in the video. “Today, our U.S.-India partnership is broader, it’s deeper, and it’s more significant than it has ever been before.”

Both nations have established a strong “defense industrial cooperation,” and have launched educational programs to prepare startups and younger innovators to contribute to the defense industries, Department of State officials said.

India is also one of the fifth largest economies in the world, with a GDP of over $3 trillion. Near the end of last year, global analysts said India would be the “next great economic power.”

Local Indian Americans and Chapman University officials sang India’s national anthem, “Jana Gana Mana,” as the flag was hoisted up by three retired veterans of the Indian Army.

Anoushka Sarma, a double-major in finance and data sciences, said the ceremony was “really interesting” to see as an Indian already familiar with Republic Day.

“It’s kind of just like a ‘Yay India’ day, but I’m from Colorado, so this never really happened in my high school or at any of my other schools,” Sarma, 21, said. “It’s just a nice way to commemorate India.”

Shukla, who has been a professor at Chapman for 39 years, said that Chapman University’s mission is to “provide personalized education of distinction that leads to inquiring, ethical and productive lives as global citizens.”

“It is important for our students, who strive to be global citizens, to learn about India’s business, economics, political, and cultural global impacts,” he said.

Other ways the university works toward this goal is by having a South Asian Student Association, study abroad courses in India, courses that teach about four major world religions with roots in India, and a newly established Shah Family Endowed Chair in Innovativeness.

His wife, Yatri Shukla, is an adjunct professor at the school. She said they are “proud Indians” with deep ties with Chapman University, even sponsoring the flag of India when the school’s International Peace Plaza was first opened in 2009. It is the same flag raised during the campus’ first Republic Day flag ceremony.

Wearing a traditional sari, San Fernando Valley resident Melvinder Kaur came to Thursday’s event to see her husband hoist the Indian flag.

“My husband served 21 years in the Indian Army,” Kaur, 67, said. “I wanted to be here for my husband, for my country. I was born and raised there most of my life.”

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