LIVINGSTON, NJ — In celebration of India’s 73rd Independence Day, Sanskriti of New Jersey and Livingston Committee for Diversity & Inclusion (LCDI) invited the public to a flag-raising ceremony at Livingston Town Hall on Thursday, where speakers and various audience members matched the Indian flag by wearing orange, green and white.

Namita Shah, president-elect of Sanskriti NJ, shared some of India’s history as she addressed the crowd.

“India is a country with many languages, cultures, traditions and religions, where unity and diversity come together,” said Shah, who explained that India was under British rule for 200 years, and that Mahatma Gandhi led the resistance to fight for independence.

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Shah shared that the Salt March—where freedom fighters walked 241 miles in protest of British rule—is the most well-known protest led by Ghandi, who lived by the principles of non-violence, truth and firmness.

Shah quoted Gandhi, saying that, “A true devotee feels the pain of others.” Other lessons she shared from Gandhi included that “the weak can never forgive; only the strong can,” and that people need to change themselves before they can make a change in the world.

As Shah performed one of the songs that marchers sang during the protest walk in 1930, many of the attendees joined in. Audience members chimed in again later to join Sanskriti advisory board member Milind Sapre in singing India’s national anthem, “Jana Gana Mana.”

Among the notables in the audience were Deputy Mayor Rudy Fernandez, Councilmen Michael Vieira and Ed Meinhardt, Essex County Freeholder Patricia Sebold, members of the Livingston Board of Education and Shala Gagliardi and Bebee Garcia from Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill’s office.

Gagliardi, who grew up in Livingston, read the following proclamation issued from Sherrill to Sanskriti of NJ:

“The 11th Congressional District of the Great State of New Jersey celebrates Livingston’s India Independence Day Flag Raising Ceremony. Be it known that the undersigned member of the U.S. Congress, the Honorable Mikie Shirrell, celebrates India’s Independence Day Flag Raising Ceremony.”

Noting that this is Livingston’s third annual India Independence Day celebration, Fernandez also thanked members of the LCDI, the police department and Township Manager Barry Lewis for making the event possible.

“We are proud to celebrate again this year,” said Fernandez, who spoke on behalf of the governing body in Mayor Al Anthony’s absence. “Livingston’s diversity is our strength. Events like this show that we are a community that comes together to proudly celebrate each and every culture. Our diversity makes us a better place.”

Billy Fine, LCDI co-chair, spoke to the audience about why he enjoys working with Sanskriti of New Jersey.

“India has so much culture, religion, colors, personality and delicious food,” he said. “It’s a sensory experience to behold. Livingston is fortunate to have so many neighbors and friends to share cultures with.”

He also relayed an anecdote of being invited to play in the 4th of July Cricket Exhibition by the “dynamic duo” of Sapre and Nilesh Mhatre from the Sanskrit Executive Board, who are both also members of LCDI.

“The flag-raising ceremony celebrating India’s Independence Day is a great tradition that Livingston started,” said Sapre. “It’s nice to see support from the community.”

Summarizing the experience of planning this year’s event, Fine said that the LCDI is “proud to partner with Sanskriti of New Jersey in bringing yet another wonderful celebration into the fold.”

“I am proud to be able to lend the resources and support of our committee and the township to an organization which represents such a large part of Livingston's interests and residents in efforts such as this,” said Fine, adding that the LCDI works hard on all of its events throughout the year, but received a great deal of help from Sanskriti on this one.

Noting that Shah, Sapre, Mhatre, current president Sonal Batra and the entire membership of Sanskriti of NJ "made the job easy,” Fine also thanked members of the Livingston Department of Public Works for their tremendous work supporting LCDI’s events year-round and the Livingston Police Department for always ensuring safety at LCDI events.

Fine also said he was “honored to share the podium with such amazing community leaders" as Shah, Sapre and Fernandez, whose "words brought true light to the good work our town does celebrating and supporting the diverse residents who inhabit it.”

“The LCDI is looking forward to continuing a strong relationship with Sanskriti and all of the cultural and religious groups in Livingston,” said Fine.

At the LCDI’s next event, the community will celebrate Italian heritage with members of the Livingston UNICO chapter. More information will be provided at a later date.