Shradhanjalis, Protests in Houston Even as Military Escalation Flares Up

Diginitaries gathered on the podium at India House after the Shradhanjali at India House. Similar services were held throughout Houston, including BAPS and MTS temples. Photo by Bijay Dixit.


HOUSTON: “Too many lives have been lost. Enough is enough.” With these words, Col. Raj Bhalla summed up the sentiment at the prayer service held at India House on February 20 for the 44 CRPF personnel killed in a terror attack in Pulwama, Jammu & Kashmir.

The names of the martyred soldiers were read out during a somber candlelight service while the gathering observed a minute silence in prayer for their souls.
“Shahido ko Shat Naman.” President of India Culture Center Nisha Mirani saluted the brave sons of India and in a voice tight with emotion stated “India can fight back and will fight back.”
India’s Deputy Consul General of Houston Surendra Adhana read out Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement on the terror attack and the message of condolence from the White House.
Col. Bhalla, who served in the Indian army for 20 years before moving to the US, clearly touched a nerve when he spoke of the “fire that was burning in every Indian’s heart” at this “evil dastardly act.”

An admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, Col. Bhalla disagreed with his quote “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” in this case, because “when tyranny crosses all limits, stern action must be taken whether the world becomes blind or not.”

Confrontation ensued at protests held in front of Pakistan’s consulate by more than 200 people from the Indian subcontinent on Saturday, Feb. 22. Photo credit: N-TV.

Composing himself as tears fell, he highlighted the need for abolition of Article 370 of the Indian constitution and stated that it “is about time J & K should be open like any other state… new industries and employment will come to the state and there will be progress and development in every field.”

He also called for a media source to counter the misinformation and fake news being perpetuated by radio stations run by Pakistani Americans.

The prayer service drew over 300 Indian Americans and representatives of elected officials like Jay Guerrero from Senator John Cornyn’s office, Sam Merchant from Congressman Al Green’s office, Jason Fuller from Senator Ted Cruz’s office, Xavier Herrera from County Judge K.P George’s office and Regina Recino from Congressman Dan Crenshaw’s office who all expressed their “solidarity with India.”

Leaders of various Indo American organizations also voiced their abhorrence at this act of terrorism.

IAPAC President Hasu Patel, spoke of “not allowing our resolve to weaken.” IACCGH Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia drew attention to the names of the jawans on the banner where you “realize the diversity of India… the prosperous India that these terrorists cannot accept.”

Somansh Agarwal of HGH observed that the soldiers demonstrated the highest level of the selflessness that the Bhagwat Gita speaks of, IMAGH representative Latafath Hussain called for India to “give such a reply that every would-be terrorist would think a 100 times before committing such an act.” IACF’s representative also spoke of “rising above just condemning the act and taking a strong stance.’ Earlier, two patriotic songs were rendered beautifully by Smriti Srivastava accompanied by Govind Shetty on the tabla.

Speaking from a personal perspective having served in Kashmir for three years, Executive Director of India House Col. Vipin Kumar cited a chronology of recent terror attacks and concluded with the question on everyone’s mind -“When will this stop?”