Amid a contentious battle between the Indian Business Association and the Oak Tree Indian Business Association - the two groups divided over the right to host along the Iselin/Edison border - the Indian community celebrated India's 65th year of independence with a flag hoisting ceremony Saturday afternoon, a moment of calm sandwiched between a pair of parades along Oak Tree Road.
The flag raising, which was presented by the Indo-American Cultural Society and the Man Making Group, was held in between the two separate Sundays when each of the parades was to be held. The IACS chose not to support either parade, according to Pradip (Peter) Kothari, President of the Indo-American Cultural Society of Iselin. His group, he said, wanted a united parade.
"Personally, I'll go to the parade in Edison, because they invited me," said Kothari. "I did not attend the one in Iselin because I was not invited."
"When we fight for a day to celebrate, we forget the sacrifice of the freedom fighters," said Kothari of the parades, which were initially set for August 14, before heavy rain forced the postponement of the Edison march to yesterday, August 21. "This is a day I didn't want to see."
The Indian Business Association held their parade in Iselin last week. The Oak Tree Indian Business Association hosted their event yesterday, August 21, in Edison, on Oak Tree Road near the border with Woodbridge.
A theme of striving towards unity was prevalent among the speakers at the flag ceremony. "Let us begin right now to create the conditions so that we might enjoy a united parade in 2012," said Reverend Jim Thomas of the First Presbyterian Church of Iselin, which hosted the event.
In addition to local politics, speakers at the celebration used their time to discuss issues surrounding the government in India. "This [Indian] government has become an arrogant government, and has decided not to recognize the mood of the people," said Kothari from the stage.
Later, Kothari added that the mood of the people was not being represented in Woodbridge, either, since Woodbridge mayor John McCormac was unwilling to assist in attempting to form an agreement between two parade organizers. "The mayor should listen to the feelings of the business people," said Kothari, who is running as a Republican for the Third Ward council position. "What the business people wanted (was a unified parade), the mayor should support what the majority wants."
Town spokesman John Hagerty said it was true that McCormac hadn't met with the newer Indian group. "The Indian Business Association had the permit for many years. The mayor met with them about the details of the parade. They had the permit for Woodbridge," he said.
Kothari hopes for one parade next year - whether the two groups can work out their differences or not. "The best would be a united parade. But if not, they should support what the majority wants. The mayors [McCormac and Edison Mayor Antonia Ricigliano] should pick one next year if no compromise can be reached."
A dual-group meeting isn't likely to happen, at least not on the Woodbridge side of the border. "There was no reason to meet with Kothari about a parade that is not in Woodbridge," said Hagerty, who called Kothari's complaint "a red herring."
"If the mayor of Edison met with them, good for the mayor of Edison," Hagerty said. "The parade was not in Woodbridge."