On August 14, 1997, King County residents from India or of Indian descent celebrate the 50th anniversary of the independence of India at the Seattle Center. There are some 18,000 persons of Indian descent in the Seattle area (as of 1997). India emerged as an independent nation at the stroke of midnight on August 14, 1947, ending two centuries of British colonial rule. Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress led the movement for independence. At independence, the separate state of Pakistan was formed from a region that had been part of India, as a way of resolving bitter and often violent conflicts between Hindus and Muslims within India. Pakistan is largely Muslim, whereas India is largely Hindu.
Independence and the partition of Pakistan prompted a great movement of populations, with many Hindus and Sikhs relocating to India and many Muslims to Pakistan. People moved to escape the horrific violence in which thousands had died. Sikhs and Hindus left western Punjab, which is now part of Pakistan and eastern Bengal, now Bangladesh. Muslim families who had lived for generations in Delhi and Calcutta moved to Pakistan.
Many people of Indian descent came to the Pacific Northwest to pursue careers as doctors, engineers, scientists, and professors. Many of their children were born here and have never lived in India. On August 14, 1997, at the Seattle Center, they celebrated their rich and diverse cultural heritage in exhibits, food, folk dances, and theatrical performances. The next day, on August 15, the community planted five trees on the north shore of Green Lake to commemorate the independence of India.