When a Muslim neighbour in Punjab helped columnist Ved Nanda’s parents escape during Partition
Honouring the life of Indian-American columnist Ved Nanda, who was the recipient of the Gandhi-King-Ikeda Award for Community Peace Building in 2004 and the Padma Bhushan in 2018, the US Congress this week described him as a prominent figure and a bridge between the two nations.
A well-known columnist for the Denver Post who taught at the University of Denver for 50 years, Prof Nanda died early this month at the age of 89.
“For over five decades, Prof Nanda uplifted the students of DU and the Indian diaspora community, becoming a prominent figure and a bridge between our two nations. He also served in several illustrious positions, including Chairman of the Board of the Hindu University of America and Vice President of the American Society of International Law,” Congresswoman Diana DeGette said on the floor of the US House of Representatives this week.
According to the Denver Post, Nanda was tireless in pursuing justice and peace for moral and personal reasons. His seminal work for The Denver Post was his 2017 reflection on India’s Partition.
At the time, Nanda was a young child, fleeing for his life at his mother’s side. As a Hindu family in Gujranwala, a Muslim-majority town in Punjab, it was a Muslim neighbour who helped the Nandas escape neighbours who had overnight turned into “animals,” indiscriminately killing any Hindus who remained.
Muslims in east Punjab faced a similar fate as violent mobs forced them into what would become Pakistan, the Post wrote.
“Mr Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to a distinguished member of Denver’s academic community and a cherished friend, Prof Ved Nanda. His recent passing is a profound loss, not only to the University of Denver and our local community but to many across the US and the world,” DeGette said this week.
“Prof Nanda was more than just an esteemed colleague; he was a kind and passionate individual whose impact on our community extended far beyond the walls of the university. His commitment to education, international law and the promotion of cultural understanding left a mark on all who knew him,” the Congresswoman said.
“Born in 1934 in Gujranwala, Ved Nanda built an exemplary career starting at Punjab University where he received an MA in economics. He went on to receive a law degree from Delhi University, a law degree from Northwestern University, and completed subsequent postgraduate work at Yale University,” she said.
“In 2006, Prof Nanda was honoured with a USD 1 million founding gift from the University of Denver to launch the Ved Nanda Centre for International and Comparative Law, promoting programmes and scholarships in the field of international law. He was also honoured with the prestigious Gandhi-King-Ikeda Award for Community Peace Building in 2004 and the Padma Bhushan in 2018,” the Congresswoman said.
“These accolades are a testament to his significant impact on the field and tireless efforts to advance knowledge and cultural exchange. His work was noticed and rightly honoured for its impact. For more than 30 years, Prof Nanda shared his wisdom with the larger Colorado community through his regular columns in the Denver Post,” DeGette said.
His clear and reasoned explanations of international issues provided important perspectives to readers.
“As we remember and mourn the passing of Ved Nanda, we also celebrate the enduring legacy he leaves behind. I have no doubt his intellectual contributions, passion for education, and love for both India and the United States will continue to inspire us all,” she said.
In an op-ed, the Denver Post wrote that Nanda’s voice for peace would be dearly missed in a world beset with anger and violence, where Ukrainians, Russians, Ethiopians, Yemenis, Israelis and Palestinians are dying in droves.
“In a world where journalists can no longer freely travel to places once safe, like Russia, China and Saudi Arabia. In a world where women in Afghanistan and Iran are more marginalised than ever. We need more men and women like Nanda who follow a clear moral compass towards peace,” the daily said.