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City of Aurora heralds Diwali celebrations in US

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Cluster of colorful Fourth of July fireworks

Aurora (Illinois, US): A local school auditorium was converted for a few hours into mini-India for Diwali celebrations hosted by the city of Aurora, the second largest city in the US state of Illinois.

Over 4,000 people, mostly Indian-Americans, in traditional attire, attended the event organised by the Indian-American Community Outreach Board of the city.

The guests were treated to an eclectic collection of performances ranging from vignettes from the Ramayana to semi-classical and Bollywood dances expertly performed by amateurs, many of them second generation Indian-Americans.

Aurora 3

The fast paced cultural extravaganza entertained the crowd of over 4,000, while serving as an introduction to India’s mythological and cultural heritage for US-born Indians and non-Indians.

Cuisines from various Indian states and traditional Indian apparel and jewellery provided a feast for the eyes and palate.

A video presentation projected glimpses of Indian history and culture. Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner lit the traditional lamp inaugurating the event, which started with Ganesh aaradhana (invocation) and included a Bharat Natyam performance on ‘Rama Ravana’, depicting the slaying of the demon king.

Mayor Weisner, whose unstinting support led to the city hosting the first Diwali event last year, appeared visibly pleased at the success of the event, as well as the contribution of the Indian-American community to the cultural fabric of the city.

“Indian-Americans have enriched the city with their unique contribution to music, dance and cuisine,” he said.

Other elected officials endorsed him. US Congressman Bill Foster said that Diwali reminded Americans of how multiple cultures have contributed to the American heritage.

Among those attending were two members of the state legislature, the Indian consul general and several aldermen.

Krishna Bansal, the chairman of the board, noted that it was fitting that Diwali, the festival of lights should be celebrated by Aurora, the city of lights. Aurora, named after the goddess of dawn was the first city in the US to have public electric lights.

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Krishna Bansal

“Diwali, which symbolises the victory of light over darkness, or the triumph of virtue over evil, has assumed greater relevance in a world torn by division and strife,” he said.

The Diwali event was held a few days before the actual Diwali on November 11, taking into account Chicago area’s unpredictable cold in November, that could have prevented the outdoor fireworks display, the concluding part of the celebrations.

The event was seen as much a celebration of India’s culture as an acknowledgement of how well the Indian community has assimilated into the suburb.

Although Indian-American immigration to Aurora and the neighbouring Chicago suburbs is relatively recent, Indian-Americans have quickly made a mark by contributing significantly to the fields of business, academics, medicine and technology.

Diwali was first celebrated in the White House in 2003 and was given official status by the US Congress in 2007 with push from former president George W Bush. Barack Obama became the first president to personally attend Diwali celebrations at the White House in 2009.

Members of the Aurora Indian-American Board and scores of volunteers toiled for months to make the event a success. Many of the volunteers were professionals in the fields of information technology and finance.

Not surprisingly, technology played a critical role in the organising efforts. Marketing strategies involved power point presentations, meticulous floor plans and extensive meetings with city officials and fire marshals.

The traditional Indian ‘diyas’, a fire hazard, were ruled out.

Different sections of the audience had a different take out from the event. For those not of Indian descent and US-born Indians, the exotic nature of the dances overshadowed everything else. While the older generation appreciated the ‘abhinaya’ (histrionics) of the ‘Rama Ravana’ performance.

A six-year-old Indian-American announced that he was fascinated by the ten-headed Ravana, because he “looks really cool”.

(Ashok Easwaran, IANS)
(Photos: IANS)

 

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Indian-Americans Slam Singer Mika Singh for saying ‘Humara Pakistan’ in an Independence Day Video

In spite of the controversies, Mika Singh performed in Houston and Chicago

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Mika Singh faces wrath for saying humara Pakistan
Mika Singh faces wrath for saying humara Pakistan. Twitter
  • 15 August ko humara Hindustan azaad hua tha aur 14 ko humara Pakistan, says Mika Singh 
  • He received a lot of criticism for it from Indian- American public, Indian politicians
  • Indian Americans in large numbers strongly criticized the ill-timed video

New Delhi, August 14, 2017: Mika Singh performed in  Houston and Chicago on August 12 and 13 respectively to celebrate Pakistan and India’s Independence Day. He received a lot of criticism for it from Indian- American public, Indian politicians, twitter world and the FIA).

Earlier, the organizers of the show posted a video of Mika talking about his performance in which he said that he’s looking forward to celebrating the Independence Day of India and Pakistan. He said, “15 August ko humara Hindustan azaad hua tha aur 14 ko humara Pakistan,” The 40-year-old singer drew criticism for saying ‘humara Pakistan’  and evoked angry twitter reactions- “Shame on you. Are you celebrating Pakistani Day? Do you know how many of our Army Jawans are being killed by Pakistan?” a user tweeted.

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FIA is a non-profit umbrella organization of other Indian associations in the Chicago land and Mid-West area for the Indian community. Iftikaar Shareef, Trustee Chairman FIA said, “We will not tolerate you (Mika Singh) participating in Pakistan’s Independence Day.” He also said that if he’s coming to Chicago he should better be prepared for actions taken by them. As per a collective vote, he said that Mika is not welcome to Chicago if he goes to Houston. Kanti N. Patel, president of FIA said, “We should oppose Mika Singh’s performance as Indians.” They said that they will protest if he performs in Houston for Pakistan’s Independence Day and then comes to Chicago to celebrate Indian Independence Day.

WATCH THE VIDEO: FIA Press Conference Condemning Mika Singh 

The federation includes groups like Indo-American Association of Greater Houston, India Culture Center, India House, Gujarati Samaj of Houston, Graduate Indian Student Organization of the University of Houston and Patanjali Yogpeeth.  “We have a strained relationship (with Pakistan)… If he has any sense of patriotism, he should cancel this concert. Money is not everything in life. Country comes first always,” said Col (rtd) Vipin Kumar, executive director India House Inc who wanted the concert to be canceled.

Amee Patel, president of Gujrat Samaj, Houston, said: “As an organization of Indian-origin (people), we fully stand behind our flag and our other Indian community organizations in protesting against this event and we do not support this event in any fashion.” Swapan Dhairyawan, a community activist and former president of the India Culture Centre, said that it would not have been an issue if the artist was performing for a regular concert. But he emphasized it as a celebration of Pakistan’s Independence Day and saying in his viral video ‘Humara Pakistan’ is unforgivable and unfortunate.

Indian Americans in large numbers strongly criticized the ill-timed video and expressed their anger towards the statement that the show is a joint celebration. They said that the video comes across as a ‘cruel joke’ in the wake of the ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the LoC, resulting in deaths of many innocent civilians and the armed forces personnel.

According to a PTI report, Ramesh Shah, an Indian-American philanthropist said   “Celebrating India’s Independence Day is for those who believe in India and its freedom and democracy…It can never happen with Pakistan, and not when they are sponsoring and supporting Pakistani terrorists on the Indian soil.”

Mika Singh also drew the ire of several political parties. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) Chitrapat Sena Chief Amey Khopkar tweeted, “Mika Singh is doing Hamara Pakistan concert in USA. Open challenge to him, try holding a mic (microphone) in Maharashtra now,” The MNS leader said that he would write to CM Devendra Fadnavis seeking suitable action against the singer for his unpatriotic remarks.

Later, on August 12, MNS staged protests in Mumbai, Pune and Nashik, burned the Pakistani flag and effigies of Mika. Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam said, “He should know that the Pakistan which he is praising is our enemy. Pakistan always plans and plots against India and to praise such a country is incorrect.” Nirupam has asked Mika to apologize for his shameful act and to withdraw his statement. Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut also spoke on this issue and said that the artists should not compromise on patriotism over commercial benefits.

 ALSO READ: Delhi police arrests singer Mika for assaulting doctor at an event

India and Pakistan are not on good terms and there is a lot of tension between the two countries so this is not a correct time for an Indian artist to perform in Pakistan, celebrating their Independence Day when after the 2016 Uri attack all the Pakistani artists were banned to work in India. Twitter users criticized Mika Singh:


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US Senate Confirms Three Indian Americans picked by President Donald Trump to Key Governmental Posts

The Senate has unanimously confirmed three Indian-Americans to key government positions, including one as the Trump administration’s czar on intellectual property

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US Senate
Donald Trump appoints three Indian-Americans to key govt posts. Wikimedia Commons
  • The Senate confirmed Neil Chatterjee as a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  • Vishal Amin is the Intellectual Property (IP) Enforcement Coordinator in the Trump administration
  • Krishna Urs is confirmed as the US ambassador to Peru

Aug 06, 2017: The US Senate has confirmed three Indian Americans picked by President Donald Trump for key governmental posts.

Neil Chatterjee was confirmed on Thursday as a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which oversees electricity, natural gas, and oil at the national level. Krishna R. Urs was confirmed as the Ambassador to Peru while Vishal Amin got the post of White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator.

Chatterjee will play a key role in Trump’s programme to reshape energy policy, most of which is opposed by environmentalists and Democrats. He is the second Indian American to be appointed by Trump to a major regulatory position with a controversial mission.

Chatterjee held the influential position of energy policy advisor to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and helped shape energy legislation. His work backed the Senator’s campaign against regulations to restrict use of coal for electricity generation.

Also Read: US to probe into complaint: Does Harvard University discriminate against Indians, Asians?

Among issues he will likely deal with are Trump’s plans to allow the construction of the Keystone pipeline to carry crude oil from Canada to Texas in the US, which was stopped by former President Barack Obama, and several gas pipeline projects.

Krishna Urs has been a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. He is currently Charge d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Madrid. Urs took over after James Costos, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, resigned.

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Urs, a 30-year veteran of the foreign service was earlier the Deputy Chief of Mission in Spain. Urs, who knows Spanish, Hindi and Telugu, has specialised in economic issues and has developed extensive policy experience in the Andean region of South America, the White House said.

Vishal Amin is currently serving as a senior counsel for the US House Judiciary Committee. The IP enforcement position was created in 2008 in order to help the government combat online piracy.

Amin served in the administration of George W. Bush as the White House’s associate director for domestic policy and as special assistant and associate director for policy in the United States Department of Commerce. (IANS)

 

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Indian Americans hold Protests Against Mob Lynchings in India in 3 US Cities

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In this Friday, March 6, 2015 photo, members of a mob raise their hands to take photographs of a man, top center, accused of rape after he was lynched and hung in the city landmark Clock Tower in Dimapur, in the northeastern Indian state of Dimapur. Several thousand people overpowered security at Dimapur Central Prison in Nagaland on Thursday, and seized the rape suspect, whom they also accused of being an illegal migrant from Bangladesh. They pelted him with stones and beat him to death, said police Constable Sunep Aier. (AP Photo/Imojen I Jamir). VOA
  • These protests are similar to the “Not In My Name” protests that have been held across various cities in India
  • Protesters slammed the “brutal killings of mostly Muslims and Dalits in the name of cow protection”
  • The AJA has pledged to work with people of all faiths to defend India from the onslaught of hate and divisiveness

Washington, July 18, 2017: Indian Americans, spanning various communities, held protests in three US cities, to express their outrage over the lynching of minorities by mobs in India and the Narendra Modi government’s policies which are “emboldening such forces”.

The protests here as well as San Diego and San Jose on Sunday were organized by The Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA), an umbrella coalition of progressive organizations across the US, and other groups. A fourth protest is scheduled to be held in New York City on July 23, said a press release from AJA.

ALSO READ: Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

These protests are similar to the “Not In My Name” protests that have been held across various cities in India. Besides the AJA, the protests in San Jose were jointly organized with the “Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice”, while the South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI), will be part of the protests in New York City.

Protesters slammed the “brutal killings of mostly Muslims and Dalits in the name of cow protection”, alleging these were orchestrated by “Hindu supremacist groups ideologically aligned” with the BJP-led central government and “drawing inspiration” from the beef ban imposed by the governments in various states.

“The reign of terror unleashed by Hindu supremacist cow vigilantes is clearly targeted at browbeating the nation’s religious minorities into the status of second class citizens,” said Suhail Syed, one of the organizers of the protests in Washington DC.

Protesters in San Jose carried signs, such as “India – Hostage to Hindutva?” and “Beef Ban is Cultural Fascism”.

The AJA has pledged to work with people of all faiths to defend India from the onslaught of hate and divisiveness. (IANS)


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.