Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney announces that U.S. Postal Service will issue a commemorative Diwali stamp this year. Also seen are India’s Consul General in New York, Riva Ganguly Das, Chair of the Diwali Stamp Project Ranju Batra, and eminent Indian-American attorney Ravi Batra. (Press Trust of India)
A commemorative Diwali stamp will be issued by the U.S. this year, capping seven years-long efforts by Indian Americans and influential American lawmakers to have a stamp marking the Indian festival of lights, a move welcomed by the community, writes Yoshita Singh. Senator John Cornyn, co-chair of Senate India Caucus, applauded the U.S. Postal Service for issuing a stamp on Diwali, writes Lalit K. Jha – @Siliconeer #Siliconeer #USPS #USPSDiwaliStamp #IndianAmerican
The stamp that shows a photo of a traditional ‘diya’ lit against a sparkling gold background and the words ‘Forever USA 2016’ written below will be formally unveiled, Oct. 5.
The postage stamp will be issued by the U.S. Postal Service beginning November “honoring Diwali, the festival of lights,” Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney from New York said.
USPS Sally Andersen-Bruce of Connecticut photographed the diya and Greg Breeding of Virginia designed the stamp, with William Gicker of Washington serving as the project’s art director.
The Diwali stamp is a result of “years and years of hard work,” said Maloney.
She lamented that despite Diwali being an “important spiritual and cultural festival” for many Indian Americans and millions around the world, it had not been given its own commemorative stamp till now. Given that every other major religion has its own commemorative stamp, she said a stamp for Diwali had been long overdue.
She was joined by India’s Consul General in New York, Riva Ganguly Das, chair of the Diwali Stamp Project Ranju Batra, and eminent Indian American attorney Ravi Batra, as she made the “historic” announcement from the steps of the City Hall.
Maloney underscored that the stamp would also be a “very important revenue generator” for the U.S. postal department.
The efforts in the Indian American community had been spearheaded by Ranju Batra, who as chair of the Diwali stamp project and with the help of other community leaders, got tens of thousands of signatures for petitions to issue the stamp.
Maloney had also informed Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his visits to the U.S. in 2014 and 2015, about efforts to get a Diwali postage stamp issued, Batra said.
Ravi Batra called the move as the “strongest soft power that combines a billion people of India” as he lauded Maloney for her years-long efforts.
Among other lawmakers Senators Mark Warner and John Cornyn and House members Joe Crowley, Ed Royce, Ami Bera, and George Holding, all past or present co-chairs of their chamber’s India Caucuses, also led significant campaigns to assure Congressional support for this measure.
“An important recognition for the more than 3 million Indian Americans who celebrate Diwali,” tweeted Senator Mark Warner, co-chair of the Senate India Caucus.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, the only Hindu member of Congress, led the most recent write in campaign to the USPS with hundreds of signatories.
“This has been a long and arduous process but this act by the USPS to recognize this special day and to further increase and enrich our nation’s tapestry of religious and cultural diversity will be greatly appreciated by many,” Gabbard said.
“This year and for many more, diyas and spirits will shine brighter, as will greetings cards and gift packages sent donning the Diwali stamp,” said Suhag Shukla, Hindu American Foundation (HAF) executive director and legal counsel.
Ami Bera, the only Indian American lawmaker in the U.S. Congress, also welcomed the decision.
“I’m thrilled that the United States Postal Service has issued a stamp to celebrate Diwali,” Bera said in a statement.
Bera, co-chair of the Congressional India Caucus, had pushed for a stamp since he came to Congress in 2013, leading the effort by co-sponsoring several resolutions.
“Diwali is a celebration of goodness over evil observed by nearly a billion people around the world, including more than two million right here in the US. This stamp is long overdue, and I’m glad Diwali has the same acknowledgment as many other major religious holidays do with a commemorative stamp,” he said.
“I applaud the Postal Service for this meaningful recognition of Diwali, a holiday important to Indian Americans in Texas and across the country,” Cornyn said in a statement.
Cornyn and Senator Mark Warner, other co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, had introduced a resolution to commemorate Diwali with a U.S. Postal Service stamp last year.
The holiday now joins other religious festivals honored with a commemorative stamp, including Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Eid al-Fitr.