June 2008

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Obituary | June 2008

 


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Gopal Raju: Indian Ethnic Media Pioneer Passes Away
(1928 - April 10, 2008)

US House pays tribute to Gopal Raju

Born in the city of Bangalore, India, Gopal Raju moved to the United States in 1950. He initially found work in several different industries, including running a restaurant and travel agency, before setting his sights on becoming a publisher. He launched, in 1970, the first successful Indian newspaper in the U.S., India Abroad, which refers to itself as the "oldest Indian newspaper published in North America."

 

New York, May 25 - In a rare honour given to an Indian American, rich tributes were paid in the US House of Representatives to pioneer publisher Gopal Raju, who passed away on April 10 at the age of 80.

 

Speaking in the House last week, Congressmen Frank Pallone from New Jersey and Joe Wilson from South Carolina praised Raju's lifetime work of empowering the Indian American community and promoting a stronger relationship between India and the US.

 

Pallone said:, "I rise today to honour Gopal Raju, a visionary who bridged the American and Indian communities through journalism and activism."

Pallone pointed out that Raju, who arrived in the US from India in 1950, sought to connect the Indian American community with India.

 

"Raju launched the news weekly India Abroad in 1970. He served as its publisher for 31 years. Raju's journalistic reach spread to other media endeavours including Desi Talk, Gujarat Times, and News India-Times," he said.

 

Pallone further said that Raju founded the Indian American Centre for Political Awareness (IACPA) in 1993 to encourage the community's participation in the political process in this country.

 

"The IACPA developed the Washington Leadership Programme (WLP), which gave university students the opportunity to intern on Capitol Hill and develop a broader understanding of public policy," he said.

 

Wilson added that WLP has allowed nearly 200 Indian Americans to participate as interns on Capitol Hill - some of whom have even served in the office of the Second Congressional District of South Carolina.

 

He also recalled that Raju was instrumental in launching the Indian American Foundation (IAF), which raised millions of dollars for causes in India.

 

Wilson noted that Raju started the India Abroad News Service, now known as Indo-Asian News Service (IANS), which has been "a vital channel for information sharing between the United States and India for more than 20 years".

 

He named some of the honours Raju had received including the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, which is given to immigrants for their contributions to the US, Asia Society's Leadership Award 2000, the 2006 Taraknath Das Foundation award, and the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman by India in 2007.

 

On a personal note, Wilson said: "I was honoured to have met this incredible individual. I know his humility and selfless contribution to the lives of the millions his programmes and publications touched will be missed."

 

A memorial service for Gopal Raju was organised May 17 in Fords, New Jersey, by India Abroad and the South Asian Journalists Association. Several lawmakers, community leaders and mediapersons paid tributes on the occasion to Raju, who passed away April 10 after a brief illness.

 

[Courtesy: Overseas Indian]

   Gopal Raju: Indian Ethnic Media Pioneer Passes Away
  
(1928 - April 10, 2008)

“Gopal Raju was so stoic and brave that he continued to work (from his hospital bed) till the hour before he died,” noted Merchant, the principal speaker at the service who now edits the News India-Times weekly newspaper. 

The President, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam giving away the Pravasi Bharatiya Awards for Media to Mr. Gopal Raju from USA, at the 5th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas-2007 in New Delhi on January 9, 2007.

Friends and associates of publisher Gopal Raju, who died on April 10, gathered in cyberspace to pay tribute to the man who networked the global Indian diaspora through the media and helped create new awareness of the strengths of migrants from India. The New York-based South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA) organised the virtual memorial service Monday for Raju to enable participants from the US, India and many other countries to remember the man who virtually single-handedly effected a paradigm shift in the manner in which Americans viewed the Indian disapora and of the possibilities it held for enriching their lives. 

People from around the world were able to log on to the website for the memorial service and listen to it or speak. A recording of the service is available at the website that hosted it. 

Be it his long term associate Veena Merchant or Tarun Basu, chief editor of the (IANS) that Raju created as the India Abroad News Service, former diplomat T.P. Sreenivasan, Indian American journalist Mayank Chhaya or Thomas Abraham of the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin, all speakers at the 90-minute service stressed on Raju’s self-effacement, his insistence on accuracy and above all, his quest for the truth at the cost of annoying the powers that might be. 

What came out strongly at the end of the service was the humility of a man who strove for over five decades to serve as a bridge between America and its vast Indian diaspora by connecting the two communities to encourage better understanding - without seeking anything in return. 

“Gopal Raju was so stoic and brave that he continued to work (from his hospital bed) till the hour before he died,” noted Merchant, the principal speaker at the service who now edits the News India-Times weekly newspaper. 

“He was a tough boss and a perfectionist and when you got to know him, you realised that he was very fair at the end of the day,” Merchant added. 

According to Sreenivasan, the Indian American Centre for Political Awareness founded by Raju had, over the years, succeeded in creating a new awareness among US lawmakers through the interns it helped place on Capitol Hill. 

“This has helped US lawmakers see India in a different light,” said Sreenivasan, who was deputy head of the Indian embassy in Washington in the difficult days following the Indian nuclear tests of 1998. 

Noting that “without the media, no community can move forward”, Abraham said that Raju’s efforts “were a great help for community mobilisation at a time when we were spread across America and with no Internet”. 

“He also opened up opportunities for young Indian journalists to come to America,” Abraham added. 

Raju, 80, died last Thursday after a brief illness. He founded the India Abroad newspaper, the (IANS), the Indian American Foundation (IAF) and the Indian American Center for Political Action (IACPA).  

At the time of his death, he was publisher of the weekly newspapers News India-Times, Desi Talk and Gujarat Times.

[Copyright: IANS]

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