Governor Quinn Proclaims Swami Vivekananda Day in Illinois

Lamp Lighting at Chicago Art Institute where Swami Vivekananda delivered historical address.

Lamp Lighting at Chicago Art Institute where Swami Vivekananda delivered historical address.

By Nand Kapoor

CHICAGO: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn proclaimed  Saturday September 28, as Swami Vivekananda Day in Illinois  to mark the celebration of 150 birth anniversary of  this great spiritual  leader who conquered America a century ago.

The Proclamation acknowledged, Swami Vivekananda was a great scholar and a person committed to make  world a better place to live and creating  the world without borders, was a great moral booster  to  State wide celebrations of his  birth anniversary.

Gathering at Chicago Art Institute.

Gathering at Chicago Art Institute.

The Proclamation also stands in sharp contrast with the intolerance displayed by a group of people who allegedly sought to torpedo the Chicago celebrations by hook or crook means at their command.

A fly  in ointment was also a conspicuous absence of Indian Consul General Dr Ausuf Sayeed from the celebration  even while  he had earlier confirmed his attendance to three  office bearers of the Organizing Group.  Twenty plus community  organizations of Indian Americans and temples representing a huge segment of Indian community in Chicagoland had pooled their resources for the event.

It is alleged that  efforts were made by interested group to derail Baba Ramdev coming to Chicago through subtle maneuvering that would either deny or delay his arrival to Chicaog via  London . He was delayed for nearly nine hours at the airport  before clearance was given through intervention by an MP in UK Parliament. The huge delay, it is reported, is triggered by a sort of “Red Alert”  that is  usually  marked for  the person with terrorist connections or link. In a conversation, Baba said that he repeatedly made it clear to the Immigration authorities that he had nothing to hide nor was he carrying anything that could remotely get connected to terrorism. He had nothing but a Zola and his Langoti.

In USA, nothing happened although a smear campaign  was unleashed  that sought to link Swami’s Birth anniversary celebration with one religion or with one organization that had religious affiliation. In fact, this was not true as two dozen organizations pooled their resources together to host the celebrations.

The members of the Indian community were also surprised and piqued  that Indian Consul General who had earlier promised to attend the celebrations at Meadows Club on Friday September 28 did not show up. This became a talk of the town as it was not easily explicable.

Talking to a correspondent,  CG Dr Ausuf Sayeed sought to explain this  away by saying that a visit of two Federal Ministers upset the applecart. When pointed out that the visits of Ministers or delegations are planned in advance and are not an eleventh hour affair, he said that this time the notice was sudden.   Besides,  participation by  an India political figure  gave a different color to  the meet and hence, he chose to stay out.

To a question if deputing one of the Consuls would not have been appropriate, he said that  nobody from the organizing  group sought  or suggested it. The consensus that the London Episode and the CG absence need to be pursued and investigated further so that the forces behind the incidents are exposed.

Meanwhile, the two days celebrations – September 28 at Meadows Club and the other on  September 29 at Art Institute of Chicago and  later on at Bartlett Jain temple- turned out to be a huge success  with a sizeable participation from first and second generation Indian Americans.  The event at Meadows club attracted over 500 participants while that at Bartlett ( which was an all day affair) had  an array of speakers from different organizations- social and religious  who whole heartedly subscribed to the theme of World Without Borders. Attendance was over 700. Even the lamp lighting ceremony at Chicago Art Institute early in the morning was attended by 250 plus saints from across India and local elites.

The Chicago Art Institute event  had special significance in that it was in the month of September 130 years ago Swami Vivekananda preached universal brotherhood and Vasudha Aive Kutumbak philosophy by addressing the huge gathering with a novel and unique salutation ‘My Brothers and Sisters  of America.’  The event was live broadcast on Aaj Tak, Zee TV, TV Asia and a few other leading channels.

It was done for the first time  and the credit should go to the organizing team led by Dr S Sheth, Harnedra Mangrola, Vinesh Virani, Vandana Jhingan, J Dibvenkar, Nirav Patel and others. All of them however, also acknowledged the “untiring efforts by Art Institute Officials like Robert Hudson and one of his colleagues Kevin Lunt.