Anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare and Bollywood actress Vidya Balan led the largest Indian Independence Day celebrations overseas on Monday, with over two lakh people carrying the tricolour witnessing an impressive parade at New York which displayed the country's vibrant culture.
Colourful floats, marching bands and convertibles made their way down Madison Avenue in Manhattan with revellers cheering Hazare and Balan. "Anna Hazare zindabad" "corruption down down" rent the air of Manhattan as the veteran Gandhian rode past over two lakh people, most of them Indian-Americans, in the annual India Day Parade organised by Federation of Indian Associations (FIA).
The 76-year-old Hazare was cheered loudly at every intersection by large number of people while the fragile khadi-clad Gandhian waving from his vehicle that had to be stopped at several intersections, with people rushing to shake hands with him. "I've never seen something as wonderful and heartwarming," said Balan, the parade's grand marshal.
The Indian-Americans waved the tricolour at Hazare and shouted that they stood by him in his crusade against corruption. Hundreds of parade goers wore orange, green and white dress with a Gandhi caps "I am for Anna" to demonstrate their support to Hazare, whose anti-corruption crusade has inspired thousands at home and abroad.
Anna was an instant hit among Americans too who had come in large numbers to see the man who took the government head on single handedly following the teachings of ahimsa propounded by his mentor Mahatma Gandhi. The New York Police Department (NYPD) had a tough time in controlling the surging unprecedented crowd.
Balan drew huge crowds as people on both sides of the Madison Avenue cheered her when she travelled in the FIA float along with FIA President Sanjay Amin, New York Consul General Dnyaneshwar Mulay and Gen V K Singh, former Indian Army Chief and leaders of the Indian-American community.
Balan gave flying kiss to her thronging fans that went berserk on seeing her and the fans had to be cleared by mild force near the review stand where the guests of honors assembled to deliver their speech.