Despite living in the shadow of the pandemic life went on with more milestones achieved, new paths trodden for Indian Americans as a community. Here’s a quick look on some significant events from the past year that’ll have a lot of bearing on the future….
Growing clout of Indian Americans in Biden administration
Through the year a number of Indian Americans were in news for their appointments in the Biden administration. While Rashad Hussain became first Muslim to be nominated to head US diplomacy for advancing religious liberties, former diplomat Vinai Thummalpally was appointed Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of US Trade and Development Agency. Maju Varghese, who previously served as a key member of the Biden campaign and the inaugural committee was appointed as the deputy assistant to Biden and director of the White House Military Office and Mala Adiga as the policy director of his wife Jill Biden. Ajay Jain Bhutoria, Sonal Shah, Kamal Kalsi and Smita Shah were the latest nominations for members of his Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.
Four Sikhs among 8 killed in Indiana FedEx facility mass shooting
In mid-April last year four Sikhs, including three women, were among eight people who were killed in a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in the state of Indiana staffed by a large number of Indian-American employees, shocking the community leaders.
The gunman, identified as 19-year-old Brandon Scott Hole, was a former employee who died later by suicide.
This was the worst Sikh massacre in the US after the Oak Creek Gurdwara mass shooting in Wisconsin on August 5, 2012, where seven members of the community were killed.
The four victims who belonged to the Sikh community were: Amarjeet Johal (66), Jaswinder Kaur (64), Amarjit Sekhon (48) and Jaswinder Singh (68).
On July 28 the Indianapolis Metro Police Department (IMPD) and other law enforcement agencies held a press conference to announce the conclusion of their investigation where in the authorities determined that this shooting was “an act of suicidal murder” and not driven by any particular ideology.
Indian-American hoteliers grew to own 60 percent of industry
Members of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) – largely Indian Americans – now officially own 60 percent of the industry.
The count was based on a new study conducted by AAHOA in partnership with Oxford Economics, a global leader in forecasting and quantitative analysis, on the economic impact and industry influence of the association’s nearly 20,000 members.
The study analyzed the share of US hotels and rooms owned by AAHOA members, hotel operations, hotel guest ancillary spending, capital investment, and indirect and induced impacts supported by AAHOA hotels in other parts of the US economy.
The 34,260 AAHOA Member-owned hotels account for 60 percent of all hotels in the US, 3.1 million guestrooms, and 2.2 million direct impact jobs.
The study’s topline results were presented to AAHOA Members during the general session on the first day of the 2021 AAHOA Convention & Trade Show on Aug 3 in Dallas.
PM Modi visited US for first summit of Quad leaders
Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew down to participate in the first in-person Quad Leaders’ Summit along with leaders of Japan, and Australia in Washington with US President Joe Biden hosting the leaders at the White House on September 24. The PM had an “extensive and productive” discussion with President Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. He later went to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly.
Elected mayors, 2 Indian Americans make history in Edison and Cincinnati
Two Indian Americans won hotly contested races as mayor of two important cities, creating history in the November 2 elections.
Sam Joshi became the first Indian-American elected Mayor of Edison, the 5th largest municipality in New Jersey. The Democrat defeated his nearest rival Republican Keith Hahn by over 1,700 votes. Joshi had been serving as the Vice President of the Town Council.
Thirty nine-year-old Aftab Pureval
NY Governor Andrew Cuomo stepped down post sexual harassment scandal
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo resigned in August following an inquiry that found he sexually harassed 11 women, mounting legal pressure and demands for his departure by President Joe Biden and others, a startling downfall for a man once seen as a possible U.S. presidential contender.
Cuomo, a Democrat who had served since 2011 as governor of the fourth most-populous U.S. state, made the announcement after New York Attorney General Letitia James on Aug. 3 released the results of a five-month independent investigation that concluded he had engaged in conduct that violated US and state laws.
Cuomo, 63, was elected to three terms as governor, as was his late father, Mario Cuomo.
Biggest Indian flag unfurled at New York’s Times Square
Leading organization of Indian-origin people in the US, the Federation of Indian Associations – New York, New Jersey and Connecticut (FIA-NY NJ CT) hosted a special ceremony at Times Square to celebrate India’s 75th Independence Day. While in 2020 it had hoisted India’s National Flag at Times Square for the first time at the iconic New York City destination, it hoisted the biggest tricolor unfurled at the same venue to mark 75 years of India’s independence in 2021.
The 48 square feet-long tricolor was unfurled at the 25-feet tall flagpole on August 15. Consul General of India in New York Randhir Jaiswal unfurled the tricolor.
The first India Day billboard at Times Square was displayed for 24 hours and the Empire State Building was also lit in the hues of the Indian tricolor.
In a first, New York’s World Trade Center lit up for Diwali
For the first time ever, a Diwali-themed animation adorned the One World Trade Center, a symbol of New York City’s eternal goodness.
The animation went live on November 2 at 6 pm (local time) and continued until Nov 4th. Dubbed the All-American Diwali experience, it also included a spectacular fireworks display that was viewed by audiences on both sides of the Hudson.
Organized by New Jersey-based non-profit South Asian Engagement Foundation, the All-American Diwali experience was dedicated to the Country’s first responders.
Federation of Indian Associations of eight states commemorated Diwali and 75 years of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav by lighting the world-famous Empire State Building in the colors of ‘diya.’ The lighting ceremony was graced by Consul General Randhir Jaiswal, Deputy Consul General Dr. Varun Jeph, popular R&B singer, songwriter and music producer Jay Sean and R&B singer, model and yoga instructor Thara Natalie.
AIA NY did Diya lighting at Times Square, NYC, which is also known as the crossroads of the world. It also displayed Diwali messages on the Nasdaq billboard for hours & on mobile LED screens in NYC, Queens and Long Island to mark Deepavali 2021.
Indian Consulate hosts Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav week
The Consulate General of India in New York held a Special Week celebration of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav from 29 Nov-6 Dec 2021. The journey of “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav”, celebrating 75 years of India’s Independence, was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March. The Special Week was launched by Meenakashi Lekhi, Minister of State for External Affairs and Minister of State for Culture through a video message.
The week-long program showcased various facets of India including dance, music, meditation, language, cultural diversity and aspirations of its people. While some of the programs were in-person, others were in virtual mode. The physical programs were also broadcast through the consulate’s social media handles for wider reach.
Bill introduced to declare Diwali Federal holiday
Led by Congresswoman Carolyn B Maloney from New York, lawmakers in November introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to declare Diwali, festival of lights, a federal holiday.
The historic legislation was co-sponsored by a number of lawmakers including Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi.
Powerful Congressman Gregory Meeks, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also supported the legislation.
Reprieve for H4 visa holders, major win for H-1B employers
In November the USCIS said it will now provide automatic work authorization permits to the spouses of H-1B visa holders on H4 visa. The immigration-friendly move of the Biden administration is likely to benefit thousands of Indian-American women.
Earlier in October 2021 in a major victory for employers, a US court has approved a settlement under which an American immigration agency has agreed to recognize market research analyst as a specialty occupation for the purposes of determining the applications of H-1B visas, most sought-after by Indian IT professionals.
The settlement approved by the federal district court in the Northern District of California would now let companies request that the USCIS reopen and re-adjudicate their denied H-1B petitions.
US Hindus campaign against Dismantling Hindutva conference
Prominent Hindu groups fought vigorously an attempt to fuel Hinduphobia by organizers of ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva Conference’ held in September 2021. From writing letters and petitions to 41+ universities initially listed as sponsors to generating social media outcry – no stones were left unturned.