Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois, was the keynote speaker at the Hindu American Foundation’s Houston chapter’s annual gala, held April 7.
The evening event raised over $130,000 to support the work of HAF, a non-partisan organization working on various issues affecting the Indian American community.
Krishnamoorthi, one of four Indian Americans currently serving in the House, praised HAF’s leadership on the thorny issue of changing California textbooks to accurately portray Hindu culture.
Rishi Bhutada, who serves on HAF’s Board of Directors, said at the gala that textbooks in California and Texas “are filled with matter and pictures depicting Hinduism and Indians as weird, exotic, dirty and poor and causing our children to feel ashamed of their identity.”
HAF submitted over 100 changes to educational material in Texas and was successful in getting a major publisher’s books rejected by the State Board, when the publisher refused to make the changes.
Krishnamoorthi also noted the organization’s advocacy on stopping the revocation of H-1B visa extensions, and stressed the need for all people to get involved in civic affairs.
"Registering to vote and voting ensures that your voice is heard and you have a proverbial seat at the table when important decisions affecting you are made," Krishnamoorthi said, as reported by The Tribune newspaper.
"We need more Hindu-Americans. Doesn't matter from what party as at the end of the day we are Hindu-Americans. We are people of faith and we can live our faith in different ways, just get involved," said the congressman.
"I am proud of every letter in my name and proud of every letter in your names. What distinguishes us is ahimsa, dharma, bhakti, sewa, vasudhaiva kutumbakam. These principles are timeless and important for the way we should be conducting ourselves," he said.
Krishnamoorthi also discussed his meeting last month in New Delhi with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi; he said the premier was committed to strengthening the U.S.-India relationship.
Important issues like pushing for a solution to the green card backlog, H-1B visa and immigration reforms, working to counteract anti-Hindu bullying in schools and advocating for gun violence prevention measures were highlighted at the event, as reported by The Tribune.
Sewa International’s Houston chapter received HAF’s “Pride of the Community” award for its relief and recovery work during Hurricane Harvey. (Read related India-West story here.)
Gitesh Desai, president of Sewa International’s Houston chapter, accepted the award.
Aesha Mehta, HAF’s associate director of Programs, noted the results of a survey that showed that one out of every three Indian American students were bullied because of their religious beliefs; Mehta stated this was a consequence of how Hinduism is depicted in textbooks.
HAF co-founder Mihir Meghani, who donates 25 percent of his income every year to the organization, urged the gathering to invest in HAF and “donate until you feel the pinch.”