Wanting recognition, Indians in US seek a Diwali stamp of approval

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Nov 06, 2015 00:48 IST

The Indian-Americans are usually prosperous, live in sprawling suburban homes, send their children to expensive private schools and donate generously to politicians running for office.

They believe they deserve now a stamp of approval, a just recognition of their Americanness, their status in their country of choice as the Irish and Jewish people before them.

They want a US postage stamp to commemorate Diwali, in line with Saint Patrick’s Day stamp for the Irish festival, and the Jewish Hanukkah.

The first attempt for a Diwali stamp was made 16 years ago, but that didn’t go very far, as also the subsequent attempts. This time, the community believes, it has a chance.

“The love affair between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama should help,” said M R Rangaswamy, founder of Indiaspora, the organisation spearheading the effort.

But Obama, during whose term the White House began celebrating Diwali, cannot order a stamp. That will come from the US postmaster general who reports to US congress.

The community is working on that too. Two resolutions are currently winding their ways around the Senate and House of Representatives collecting signatures. Thirty US lawmakers turned up Wednesday for an event at the Library of Congress across the road from Capitol Hill, and some of them expressed their support for the stamp.

Groups of Indian American volunteers plan to visit the offices of every lawmaker — 100 senators and 434 members of the House of Representatives — starting Wednesday. Separately, the community is also petitioning the postmaster general, said MR, as Rangaswamy, a Silicon Valley investor, is also called. Close to 10,000 people have signed it.

Organisers said they are getting support from other communities also — such as the Sikhs. “Oh absolutely,” said Satpal Narula, an electrical engineer who came to the US in 1962.

But a Republican Indian-American, who did not want to be identified, took a contrarian point: “Why waste so much energy, money and political equity on a Diwali stamp. Save the effort for a better cause.” But he is in a minority.

Most others want it, though not sure when it will come through. “This is a process, let’s see,” said Shekar Narasimhan, a Washington DC area businessman and Democratic strategist.

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