Washington, DC – Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights is celebrated every year, not just in India, but throughout the globe wherever Indians have migrated. 2016 was a special year as the US Postal Service issued a Diwali stamp to mark the festival on October 5, 2016. The first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony took place in New York under the aegis of the Consul General of India. Many organizations and prominent personalities contributed their time and effort in pursuing USPS to issue a Diwali forever stamp.
We reached out to MR Rangaswami of Indiaspora fame to know his views.
Why did Indiaspora get involved in the Diwali Stamp effort?
This initiative was started in 2001 and had been taken on successively by many well-intentioned people and organizations, but it did not get across the finish line. Indiaspora was requested by other community organizations to get involved in 2014. We saw this as a cause near and dear to the Indian-American community’s collective hearts and minds, and that fit well with one of Indiaspora’s key planks, which is engaging in Indian-American socio-political issues in a non-partisan manner, so we got involved in a big way.
What did Indiaspora do to promote this cause?
Indiaspora, allying with other organizations, did several things to get the community’s aspiration for an official Diwali Stamp to fruition. We got 20,000 people to write physical letters and postcards to the US Postal Service (USPS) asking for this stamp to be introduced. I personally met with President Obama at the White House and told him that our community really wants and deserves to receive symbolic recognition via the Diwali Stamp, and he asked his staff to support the initiative. In addition, Indiaspora members and our allies relentlessly walked the halls of Congress for days to meet with many lawmakers, thereby succeeding in getting resolutions introduced in both the House and the Senate. Last but not least, Indiaspora and a few other sponsors organized a large Diwali Party in the Library of Congress in 2015, where we had a total of 1,200 people attending, including 50 Members of Congress. See http://www.indiaspora.org/event/light-up-the-capitol-with-diwali-in-dc/
To what do you attribute the eventual success of your endeavor?
No person or organization could have done this alone. It was a heavy lift. Indiaspora was delighted to have the support of many organizations, including the Hindu American Foundation (HAF). In fact, HAF and Indiaspora together led a letter campaign to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee that was signed by numerous other organizations. Credit is also due to some outstanding volunteers, many of whom canvassed for support at Hindu temples across the country during the Diwali time frame in 2015. Special kudos for Indiaspora’s top volunteer, Meera Prahlad, who signed up around 3,000 people to write letters to the USPS.