South Asian Community Rallies Support for Diwali Stamp 

Ravi Batra, Congress Woman Grace Meng, Ranju Batra President AIA-NY, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Asst. Sec. UN Women Lakshmi_Puri, and Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, Permanent Representative of India to UN

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New York – American lawmakers and UN officials were joined by local Indian American community leaders on February 2 in New York to rally grassroots support to press the Citizens Stamp Advisory Commission of the US Postal Service to issue a postage stamp to honor Diwali, the Festival of Lights observed by Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, and Buddhists around the world.

Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, Permanent Representative of India to the UN and South Asian community leaders, including ASG UN-Women Lakshmi Puri and Ranju Batra, President of the Association of Indians in America-NY, came together to support the initial efforts by Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney (D-NY12) and Grace Meng (D-NY6), and the newly elected and only Indian American Congressman, Ami Bera, to mark India’s Republic Day (January 26) by co-sponsoring a resolution to create a Diwali postage stamp.

Addressing a select audience of dignitaries and prominent Indian Americans, Congresswoman Maloney said, “Diwali is an important spiritual and cultural festival along with other major religious holidays for which stamps are issued, such as Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Eid, and it merits similar recognition.”

“As one of the world’s oldest religious holidays, it serves not only as a time for celebration, but also as an occasion for communities and families to convene in spiritual enlightenment. The practice of Diwali has survived political, economic and social changes throughout history, while always carrying the universal symbolism of the victory of light, goodness, knowledge and truth,” Maloney said.

Noting the financial benefit for the economically challenged US Postal Service, Ravi Batra, attorney and chair of the National Advisory Council on South Asian Affairs said, “The target audience of the Diwali stamp isn’t just 3 million Indian Americans, but over 1 billion in India alone. The sale of a Diwali Stamp would be a much needed source of revenue for the US Postal Service in tough economic times.”

Ambassador Puri echoed Batra’s words, saying, “Diwali is an international holiday, celebrated everywhere. Ravi’s point about Diwali stamp sales is valid, as the Indian diaspora, spread around the world, would treasure a US Diwali stamp and wish to purchase it as a keepsake, let alone those who use it on actual US mail.”

Calling the move “an outstanding way to recognize and celebrate the vibrancy of the Hindu American and Indian American communities,” US Rep. Grace Meng said, “Diwali deserves its own stamp, and I’m pleased to join my Congressional colleagues in urging the Postal Service to create one.”

Adding his approval, Congressman Steve Israel echoed the sentiments of his fellow New Yorkers. “Today, I join my colleagues to call on the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee to give Diwali the recognition it deserves and issue a commemorative stamp,” Israel said in his statement.

The newly elected and only Indian American Congressman, Ami Bera, added in a statement, “Diwali is one of the world’s oldest religious holidays. It celebrates goodness and truth and is observed by people from different backgrounds all across the United States and around the world. We should honor its place in our country’s tradition of religious diversity with a postage stamp, as we have done for many other religious holidays. ”

More support came from Letisha James, a NYC Council member running for NYC Public Advocate, who said, “I will introduce a Resolution in the NYC Council that the USPS issue a Diwali Stamp. After all, NYC recognizes Diwali as a parking holiday.”

Mt. Vernon, NY Mayor Ernie Davis also announced, “I will have a resolution issued from Mt. Vernon asking that the Diwali Stamp be issued now.”

Welcoming the widespread support, Indian American community leader Ranju Batra said, “We need everyone who supports religious freedom and mutual respect amongst neighbors to sign on. We now finally have a strong core group to make it happen.”

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