Indian Ambassador Assures Sikh Americans of Full Support

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May 22, 2014

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC – On May 17, recognizing the contributions and concerns of Sikh Americans, Indian Ambassador Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has assured them of full support from the diplomatic mission here.

May 22, 2014

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC – On May 17, recognizing the contributions and concerns of Sikh Americans, Indian Ambassador Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has assured them of full support from the diplomatic mission here.

Indian Ambassador Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar addressing the gathering at the Vaisakhi celebration in his Residence.  Photo credit: Embassy of India, Washington

At the Vaisakhi celebration on the sprawling lawn of the Embassy Residence on a picture-perfect day, Ambassador Jaishankar told a 200-strong crowd of eminent community members, mostly Sikhs, “Our gathering today is both a mark of this special occasion and to recognize the contributions and concerns of this community in the United States”.

The envoy underscored, “I would like to take this occasion to emphasize our commitment as an Embassy, my commitment personally as Ambassador to your welfare and progress.  The Embassy will always be there for the community whenever you need us”, he assured.

“That was the message I conveyed during the meeting of the custodians of the Milwaukee Gurdwara who I met in Chicago some weeks ago.  This was the reason I publicly supported the initiative to allow Sikh members of the US military to display articles of faith, and that is why we are examining ways of facilitating visits to India of those (political asylees) who have had difficulties in the past”, he said.

Indian Ambassador Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and his wide, Kyoko Jaishankar, are flanked by Washington area artistes at the Vaisakhi celebration in the Embassy Residence

The Ambassador pointed out that “the India-US relationship has come a long way.  There are many reasons for that”, he said.  “Among them, is the impact that Indian-Americans have had on shaping America’s public image of India and Indians.  We have developed a reputation as a responsible people with a strong work ethic and strong family commitment”.

Acknowledging the contributions of the Sikh community to India’s venerable image, he noted, “Amongst the Indians, it was the Sikhs on the west coast who were pioneers in that regard.  They gave us the first Indian-American member of Congress (Dalip Singh Saund, Democrat – California) and even today embody the spirit of India in the eyes of society at large”.

It is noteworthy that the Vaisakhi celebration was held a day after results were announced for the Lok Sabha polls which propelled the BJP-led NDA and its Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi to power.  The delay in celebrating any Indian festival at the Embassy Residence is attributed to the historic Indian election, the largest democratic exercise in the world which results in such a peaceful transfer of power.

Indian Ambassador Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar was presented a citation from Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley on the Vaisakhi celebration at his Residence.  Photo credit: Embassy of India, Washington

This year, Vaisakhi fell on April 14.  It was the first Indian festival hosted by Ambassador Jaishankar.  “Vaisakhi is one of India’s major festivals celebrated in different ways in different states”, he noted.  “For the Sikh community, it has a special significance not just as the New Year, but as the founding of the Khalsa Panth by Guru Gobind Singh Ji”.

Looking at the gathering of Sikhs on the sprawling lawn of his Residence, the envoy said, “I would like to take this occasion once again of reaffirming the relationship which we have as community and Embassy”.

The Ambassador’s wife, Kyoko Jaishankar, was a charming hostess, greeting and mingling with guests in a refreshingly affable manner.  Among the Embassy officials who partook in the celebration were: Deputy Chief of Mission Mr. Taranjit Singh Sandhu; Mr. N.K. Mishra, Minister of Personnel and Community Affairs; Mrs. Reenat Sandhu, Minister of Commerce; and M. Sridharan, Counselor, Press, Information and Culture.  Brigadier Ashok Dhingra served as the master of ceremonies.

A cross-section of the gathering at the Vaisakhi celebration in the Embassy Residence.  Photo credit: Embassy of India, Washington

Chanhok Jasdip ‘Jesse’ Singh, Chairman of the Maryland Governor’s Commission on South Asian American Affairs, together with Commissioners Pavan Bezwada, Devang Shah and Baljinder Singh, presented a citation to the Ambassador from Governor Martin O’Malley, co-signed by Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown and Secretary of State John McDonough.  The citation recognized the envoy’s “commitment and contributions to the Sikh community of Maryland”.

Jesse Singh conveyed Governor O’Malley’s congratulatory greetings on the successful election in India and the fact that he commended the efforts of the many government employees and bureaucrats who worked behind-the-scenes during the election process.

The program commenced on a religious note with a heart-warming Shabad, ‘Koi Bole Ram Ram, Koi Khudae’, on universal brotherhood by accomplished Raagis Bhai Kirpal Singh, Bhai Satpal Singh and Bhai Onkar Singh of the Sikh Foundation of Virginia.

Dr. Pavanjit Kaur Sawhney, a Sikh scholar, practicing neurologist based in Maryland, and a committed philanthropist, spoke about the importance of Vaisakhi.

On a lighter note, the audience was regaled with colorful cultural performances highlighting the rich heritage and traditions of Punjab.  A musical medley was led by Mrs. Alka Batra who explained that “all the songs allude to the beauty of the dancers who are longing for their beloved during solitude”.  The selection included timeless numbers like ‘Charkha Mera Rangla’, ‘Bajre Da Sitta’, ‘Hulle Hulare’ which are part of the musical treasures of the state.  Singing these songs is akin to a performing a ritual!

Students of the DC Metro Punjabi Arts Academy performing Bhangra at the Vaisakhi celebration hosted by Indian Ambassador Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar

The cultural segment concluded with fast-paced dances: the vibrant Gidha by a talented group of ladies – Pushmeet Bhatia, Rimpy Suri, Jaspreet Kaur, Preeti Kaur and Sharan Kaur; and the energetic Bhangra by endearing children – Ishar Kaur Chhabra, Ishmeet Singh Maharaj and Navmeet Singh Maharaj – students of the DC Metro Punjabi Arts Academy.

“I am so happy and proud to see such a vast crowd here, today, celebrating Vaisakhi”, Jesse Singh said.  “I think this is a record turnout and all credit goes to the Embassy staff.  If we go back five years, it’s not a hidden fact that our community was not as cohesive; it felt alienated and neglected.  Things in the past five years have taken such a positive shape.  We feel so happy that we have representation from almost all of the Gurdwaras in the area – Raj Khalsa, Sikh Foundation of Virginia, Sikh Sangat of Virginia, Guru Nanak Foundation of America, Sikh Association of Baltimore and Guru Gobind Singh Foundation.  This is a very good sign”!


Community Special by MYDOSTI.COM