Jackson Heights, NY: In a sign of the importance of the Indian American community and businesses in New York, several high-profile elected officials attended the 32nd Diwali celebrations on Oct. 10, hosted by the Jackson Heights Merchants Association (JHMA).
A large crowd gathered at 74th Street and 37th Avenue Jackson Heights. Several local popular dance groups and singers regaled the crowd with Bollywood, classical and bhangra dances, as well as songs. Awards were also bestowed on members of the community. The crowd at the event was a mix of Indians and non-Indians, in what was a joyous occasion after a year of the pandemic and safety regulations.
‘Diwali Mubarak’, said US Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, who represents New York state in the Senate.
“I love the Indian community. And I worked hard to change our immigration laws so that more people from India can come to Queens, to Jackson Heights, to New York, and to America,” Schumer said. However, he added, anti-immigration and anti-Asian sentiments had surfaced during the last administration.
“The values of this (Indian-American) community, as we celebrate Diwali, are American values,” Schumer maintained, such as values of family, education, and hard work. He praised Shiv Das, president of JHMA, and the organization for making 74th Street in Jackson Heights “tick so well.”
In his address, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the Indian community represents all that is good about the Big Apple. After 8 years as Mayor and having traveled all over the city, de Blasio said, “I see the extraordinary contributions you make in public service, in arts and culture, in business, you name it. The communities we celebrate today have made New York City great, have sustained us in the most difficult moment in our history.”
Calling the crowd ‘heroes’ who brought the city out of the pandemic, the Mayor said it was fitting to discuss Diwali as it symbolized the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. He extended special wishes to the Sikh community during its celebration of Bandi Chhor Divas, which commemorates Guru Hargobind’s release from Gwalior Fort during the reign of Mughal Emperor Jehangir.
India’s Deputy Consul General Varun Jeph also spoke, saying people-to-people relations were the bedrock of the strong Indian and U.S. relationship. He wished those present a happy upcoming festival season.
Dignitaries and guests at the crowded event included NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm, eminent attorney Ravi Batra, Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, community leaders Kanu Chauhan and Dilip Chauhan.