India Republic Day: Emirati singer joins UAE celebrations

Dubai - Emirati singer Yasser Habib pays tribute to Indian freedom fighter Veer Surendra Sai.

By Saman Haziq

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Published: Mon 25 Jan 2021, 7:31 PM

Last updated: Mon 25 Jan 2021, 7:37 PM

Showing his love and support for the Indian culture and community members, Emirati singer Yasser Habib, who had become an instant sensation for his melodious rendition of Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite devotional poem ‘Vaishnava jana toh’ in 2018, joined the 213th birth anniversary celebrations of Indian freedom fighter from Odisha Veer Surendra Sai in Dubai.

Sai’s birth anniversary was observed two days before the 72nd Indian Republic Day, which is celebrated on January 26 every year.

Members of Global Odias for Odisha Development (GOOD) in Dubai recalled the struggles and resilience of Sai, a freedom fighter and revolutionary leader.

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Sai’s birth anniversary was celebrated for the second time outside India.

However, this year’s celebrations in Dubai were muted because of the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic. A symbolic gathering was organised outdoors. The programme adhered to all precautionary measures to keep the contagion at bay.

Yasser, the chief guest of the programme, lit the traditional lamp.

Later, all participants paid floral tributes to the legendary freedom fighter.

Yasser expressed his happiness to be a part of a unique celebration. He was amazed to hear about Sai’s 37-year-long incarceration in an Indian prison during his freedom struggle, as compared to South African Nelson Mandela’s jail term for 27 years. He offered to contribute to spread Sai’s legacy across the globe. The offer was heartily welcomed by GOOD members.

Yasser’s rendition of ‘Vaishanava jana toh’ was played out on the occasion and his version of the popular song struck an emotional chord with all the attendees.

Priyadarshee Panigrahi, a GOOD member, said: “Despite the pandemic, we organised this small but symbolic celebration to ensure that tales of Sai’s legacy and bravery continue to be propagated at an international level. To ensure its propagation to the world, leading Emirati Singer Yasser Habib was invited. It was wonderful to hear such kind words from him about Sai’s valour and fighting spirit. This is probably for the first time in recent memory that an eminent non-Indian voice has spoken about Sai and his exploits.”

An audio-visual presentation on Sai’s life and times were made on the occasion. Memorable events of his life like his first rebellion (when was only 18 years old), his escape from Hazaribagh Jail and later his leadership role during the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny in central India were highlighted in the presentation.

Another highlight of the evening was the special video address by Padmashree Haldhar Nag, a well-known poet from Odisha who was awarded the Padma Shri in 2016. Padma Shri is India’s fourth-highest civilian honour.

Captain Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, a senior GOOD member, said: “Such a function will always be needed to celebrate the life and times of this legendary fighter, who has always been under-rated as a freedom fighter. His inspirational legacy needs to be propagated.”

Rajat Rath, a founding member of GOOD, emphasised on the need to compile all the relevant information about Sai.

“Many important documents and records of his life continue to languish in the archives of the neighbouring Indian states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. An effort to collate, restore and preserve them is needed,” he said.

National anthems of the UAE and India were played to bring the curtains down on a memorable evening.

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