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Rep. Ami Bera with Sen. Mark Warner at the Diwali celebration in Washington, D.C. (photo courtesy Ami Bera)

SAN LEANDRO, Calif. — More than 1,200 Indian Americans representing prominent community organizations, along with 50 senators and congressmen, made renewed attempts to push the United States Postal Service to issue a commemorative stamp in honor of Diwali, when they assembled in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress at the historic Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C., Nov. 4 to celebrate the festival.

The event was organized by Indiaspora, a nonprofit organization to support the well-being of Indians and Indian Americans, and their movement to positions of influence across the world, and co-hosted by BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, Council of Hindu Temples of North America, and the Hindu American Foundation.

Making fresh efforts to push USPS to issue the stamp, a broad-based coalition of over 100 community organizations have signed a petition which they will deliver to the U.S. Postal Service urging them to release the Diwali stamp.

“Tomorrow we will be knocking on every congressman and senator who hasn’t signed the resolution to sign it,” Indiaspora founder M.R. Rangaswami told India-West by phone from New York.

“To explain to them what is Diwali, why they should sign, and why this is a bipartisan issue.”

Both Republicans and Democrats have an affinity for Indian Americans and India, Rangaswami said, adding there is no push back from anyone in Congress.

“There is no one opposing it, it’s just a matter of educating our politicians and they will sign on, there is no problem at all,” he said confidently.

The Indian American community has been pushing for a commemorative Diwali stamp for many years now. Congressional resolutions have also been passed in this regard.

“Last year both the Senate and Congress introduced a legislation recommending the Diwali stamp; although it’s a symbolic recommendation, it’s powerful in that if they both ask for it, then it has to be taken seriously by the post office,” Rangaswami told India-West.

Indiaspora launched a website, www.diwalistamp.com last year, urging community members to write to their lawmakers and the USPS Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee to issue a stamp.

“In the last year, the community has sent over 10,000 physical letters and postcards to the Postmaster General,” he said.

Diwali, also known as the “festival of lights,” is an Indian holiday that marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year.

The United States Postal Service has recognized other major religious and cultural holidays through issuance of stamps, including Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Eid al-Fitr.

“Part of the big initiative is to get more visibility, to get the community more engaged in politics,” Rangaswami told India-West.

Congressman Joe Crowley, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, along with other members of Congress, hosted the first-ever Congressional Diwali celebration in 2013, and the White House has recognized Diwali under successive administrations.

Explaining the history behind the grand celebrations and Crowley’s role, Rangaswami said, “Congressman Joe Crowley, who was the head of the India caucus, said the Irish Americans like himself, the way they institutionalize their identity in the U.S., was to get St. Patrick’s Day as the event for all Irish Americans and Americans to celebrate. So, he suggested to us, why don’t you think of Diwali as that one thing that brings all of you together.

“And then Congressman Ami Bera took that to heart and said, let’s go for it, and he asked Indiaspora to take the lead and get lots of organizations involved.”

The Diwali celebration was co-sponsored by Art of Living and the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, while the Hindu Mandir Executives Conference and Jain Society of Metropolitan Washington were the co-supporters.

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