Lawmakers praise Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings for shaping the US civil rights movement

Deputy Assistant Secretary, Department of State, Nancy Jackson addressing the gathering on April 27, 2023, at Capitol Hill in Washington DC. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

Washington DC: US lawmakers lauded the life and legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, and his teachings of civil disobedience that paved a way to the civil rights movement in the United States, at an event to celebrate the US-India partnership, hosted by The Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS), on April 27, 2023, at Capitol Hill.

Addressing the gathering, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) said she has visited India and loves the history of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. She noted “I really encourage you to continue to reach out to everyone here in our country, but especially to the black community and to communities of color. So many people don’t know about our ties, so many people in the black community don’t know about the relationship between Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi. And so there’s so much that we can learn from each other.”

Calling Lee as one of the “greatest civil rights leaders in the country” Congressman Matt Cartwright (D-PA) said civil rights leaders have the deepest respect for India and Indian-Americans. “They’re the ones who know about Mahatma Gandhi. They are the ones who understand what the deep debt of gratitude that our nation owes to Gandhi, and his ideas of civil disobedience. It is the civil rights mind in Americans who understand that we learned from India how to fight for civil rights in this country.”

He said that Dr. King studied techniques from Gandhi, and noted that when he went to Selma, Alabama along with Lee to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday where civil rights leader John Lewis and President Barack Obama were also there. He said everyone has a “deepest respect for India, because of what Mahatma Gandhi taught our nation.”

Former Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said civil rights leaders Nelson Mandela, and Dr. King have credited “Gandhi and his teachings for their philosophy, and their political strength and their contributions,” adding that both Mandela and Dr. King were recognized with the Freedom Awards from the President of the United States.

Indian Ambassador to US, Taranjit Sandhu stressed the democratic values shared by both India and US, play a vital role in establishing a strong connection between the countries. He said that even the hardest of issues, “we can sit across with our friends whether from the administration or with the US Congress to actually discuss… our friendship doesn’t have to be identical. But we have the strength of being able to sit across each other and discuss…”

Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA) stated that there was hardly any Indian-American representation when he started in the US Congress, and now it is commonplace discussion about the US-India relationship and immigration issues matter to the United States strategic interests. He added “I have no doubt that we’re going to continue to grow, continue to have this impact, and continue to make bigger and bigger presence…”

Newest Indian-American lawmaker, Congressman Shri Thanedar (D-MI) while recounting how his student visa was rejected four times before it was finally approved and delays he encountered in obtaining his Green card in the US, went on to say the delays in Green card processing is a source of stress and causing families to be separated. Given his personal experience, alleviating the burden of immigration issues is a priority for him.

Stating that India is the fastest growing economy in the world, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) said “that is why it makes all the sense in the world for our partnership with India to strengthen, to deepen, to widen, and to span as many sectors as we can possibly have them.” He credited Indian-Americans for acting as a “bridge” and “glue” and keeping the US-India partnership so strong.

Director of National Drug Control Policy at the White House, Dr. Rahul Gupta emphasized that 46 million Americans are suffering from addiction, which is the primary cause of deaths between 19-44 years of age in US. Dr. Gupta while noting that US is working on a Global Coalition for Synthetic Drugs, said India has a very important role to play in the Coalition, and US is also looking to advance the US-India Drug Policy Framework for the 21st century.

President & CEO of the US- India Strategic Partnership Forum, Mukesh Aghi pointed out the growing business ties and reciprocal investments between the two countries. Aghi emphasized, “We focus a lot on trying to have China Plus One strategy for US companies. For example, we are working with almost 200 US companies, which are trying to have China Plus One strategy” noting that Apple is one of first companies to adopt the strategy and will be manufacturing around 20 million iPhone 14 in India to be exported to the rest of the world.

Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, Department of State, Nancy Jackson, while underscoring the progress made by two countries on multilateral forums such as the Quad [US, India, Japan, and Australia] and I2U2 [India, Israel, United Arab Emirates, and United States] said, “I’m so thrilled to be able to work together with you on the US-India relationship which continues to astound me by its breadth and depth and deep, deep connections that we have between our two countries.”



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