GRANADA HILLS, Calif. — Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Arun K. Singh joined Congressman Brad Sherman, Los Angeles Councilman Mitchell Englander, state Assemblyman Matt Dababneh and state Assembly candidate Rajiv Dalal in celebrating India’s 69th Independence Day in front of nearly 10,000 people at Granada Hills Charter High School here Aug. 22. It was the 16th consecutive year the India Association of Los Angeles organized the India Independence Day celebration for San Fernando Valley’s Indian American community.
It was the second time in three years that India’s ambassador to the United States attended the Independence Day celebrations in the San Fernando Valley.
Each dignitary commended the Indian American population for making significant contributions to the United States.
Englander said IALA’s Mela was the largest ethnic India Independence Day celebration within the city of Los Angeles.
“The success [the Indian American community] has brought to our community is unparalleled. This is the biggest Independence celebration turnout of almost any cultural Independence Day, bar none, in the city of Los Angeles,” Englander said, adding the San Fernando Valley is home to about 60,000 Indian Americans and eight Hindu temples.
Another city official and public office candidate said Indian Americans made great strides in becoming one of the wealthiest and most educated communities in the United States, but the time has come to expand such successes into the political realm.
“I’m running, in part, to make sure our culture, our community has representation up in Sacramento,” Dalal, who is running for the California state Assembly, said. “We have been among the most successful ethnicities in this country. We came to this country with very little in our pockets, we worked hard, we studied hard, we raised families, we’ve built the American Dream. Yet, we haven’t been able to break the glass ceiling in the political sphere.”
A former Hollywood executive and political appointee, Dalal added that other ethnicities organize around political caucuses and promote qualified candidates to be elected onto city councils, county governments, state legislatures and federal office.
Dalal, the one-time deputy film czar for Los Angles Mayor Eric Garcetti, seeks to be the first Indian American elected to the California state legislature.
Ambassador Singh acknowledged the progress of the Indian American community and urged members of Congress to strengthen the bond between the world’s two largest democracies.
“I come here [to Los Angeles], and I feel at home,” Singh said. “That is the atmosphere the pioneers, the organizers and the volunteers have created by being here. The Independence Day of India is very special to us, because it enables us to bring our voice to bear on issues for ourselves, and the world, in our own way.”
Sherman lauded India for its position as the world’s largest democracy, hoped for stronger U.S.-India relations and commended the progress Indian Americans made in the United States.
“You are the best educated ethnic group in the United States, and the best off financially in the United States,” Sherman said. “We salute India, a country where 553 million people cast their ballots. We look forward to better trade relations with India through what we hope will be a new bilateral investment treaty.”
IALA chairman Iqbal Singh Samra briefly explained the significance of India’s Independence Day and commended the country’s freedom fighters for their bravery and vision. Vinod Manchhani, IALA’s president, recognized the organization’s board, executive committee and volunteers for their many contributions to this year’s Mela.
A culture show bracketed the formal program, with a selection of Indian songs and dances presented by local children, teens and adults. The Mela also featured a free health clinic for basic testing.
Surrounding the main stage were more than 50 booths. There was also a large play area for children. Promoters gave away free gifts to advertise two films featuring Indian actors and themes, “Meet The Patels” and “Learning to Drive.”