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Indian-Americans Playing Important Role in Hurricane Harvey Relief

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Hurricane Harvey

In the wake of catastrophic flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, Indian-Americans are playing an integral role in relief efforts.

HOUSTON (Diya TV) — In the wake of catastrophic flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, Indian-Americans are playing an integral role in relief efforts.

Temples, Gurdwaras and mosques have opened their doors to provide shelter. Several Indian restaurants are giving away food and water, medical supplies, toiletries, baby food and cleaning supplies. Many are also providing medical assistance.

Among the organizations taking part in relief efforts is SEWA International, which has mobilized over 800 volunteers for the ‘rescue efforts, which have turned into relief efforts. SEWA mobilized boats, trucks and automobiles to rescue people, working shoulder-to-shoulder with the Coast Guard.

According to a Sept. 7 bulletin from SEWA, volunteers are serving 1,000 hot meals daily, helping with cleaning efforts for under-served areas and have delivered 10 truck loads of materials to support affected families. SEWA volunteers have contributed over 21,000 hours of volunteer work, while 687 people have been rescued.

“We plan to support rebuilding efforts of homes that need to be fixed through a public-private partnership with U.S. government agencies and many of the Indian-American entrepreneurs in Houston,” stated Gitesh Desai, president of SEWA Houston.

The volunteer efforts are just the start. Though FEMA will provide financial assistance, families wills till face unmet needs. SEWA has reached one quarter of their $1 million fundraising goal, having garnered $250,000 in donations as of Sept. 7.

In addition, many Indian-American businesses have opened their doors to provide meals and shelter to those displaced from the storm.

Hindus of Greater Houston, India House, India Culture Center, the Indo-American Charity Foundation and the Indo-American Political Action Committee have been helping in the coordination of relief efforts also.

The Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston plans to work with the Small Business Administration and its District Director Tim Jeffcoat in organizing seminars on business loans in the regions affected.

The greater Houston is home to around 150,000 Indian-Americans. Around 30,000 people were evacuated as Harvey bolted through the Houston area. According to Anupam Ray, India’s Consul General in Houston, the population of Indians among them would be in the high hundreds.

“I am proud of the Indian community in Houston. One of the incredible things I saw during Hurricane Harvey is how Indians stepped up to join relief efforts. This was in the best traditions of America and of India,” Ray said.

Harvey belted out five straight days of rain totaling close to 52 inches in some locations. Harvey landed as a Category 4 hurricane on August 25, delivering the heaviest tropical downpour ever recorded in the continental U.S. The storm has claimed at least 47 lives.

FEMA Director Brock Long called Hurricane Harvey the worst disaster in Texas history.

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Indian Americans’ complex relationship with politics in Trump America

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Rep. Gabbard presents a copy of the Bhagvad Gita to Indian Prime Minister Modi (2014)

HOUSTON (Diya TV) — Indian Americans constitute a tiny 1.5 percent of the U.S. population. The presence of Donald Trump, over 60 prominent lawmakers, and leaders of the corporate world, at the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event speaks to the many economic successes of this community in addition to the trade ties between the two countries.

Indian Americans are not just a rapidly rising population in the U.S.—from close to 2 million in 2010, to about 4 million in 2015— but are also the highest earning ethnic group in the US. 

At a median age of 34 years, 70 percent Indian Americans are foreign born. For them, forming allegiances with a political party in Trump America, can be daunting.

Howdy, Democrats: Indian Americans need to know

Two Democratic leaders not attending the event have become symbolic of the way some Indian Americans are conflicted in forming a clear political identity: Ro Khanna and Tulsi Gabbard.

Democratic Congressman from California, Ro Khanna, recently tweeted that, “It’s the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva and speak for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist & Christians.” This was opposed immediately by those who thought that this was guilt shaming Hindu Americans.

While Hinduism is a religion based on myriad traditions and philosophies, Hindutva is a political ideology primarily based on a pluralistic Hindu identity. In an exclusive interview to Diya TV, he defended his stand saying, “We got a standing ovation when we said that in the district.”

He had previously joined the Congressional Pakistan Caucus and was urged by 230 Indian American organizations in the United States to withdraw from the caucus. Caucuses in the U.S. political system make decisions based on shared viewpoints to influence state legislatures.

Democratic Congresswoman from Hawaii, Tulsi Gabbard, made history by becoming the first Hindu to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012. An Army veteran she was deployed as a medical administrator in Iraq. She kept her childhood copy of Bhagwad Gita for comfort during those days and gifted that copy to PM Modi on her first visit to India in 2014. However, she would be unable to share stage with PM Modi due to “prior engagements.”  Or perhaps Trump’s presence had something to do with her absence? She sent in a video with greetings and apologies to PM Modi for not being able to make it.

There was another stage Gabbard missed addressing in Houston last week: the presidential primary debate. She is one of the lower-polling Democratic presidential contenders and was passed up by the Democratic National Committee. Their reason being that she could not make the 2 percent threshold in polls although she had enough donors—very akin to the Indian American diaspora.

Gabbard’s political rise is attributed to funding from many Hindu organizations.

Both, Khanna and Gabbard, are scathing critics of American foreign military adventurism—that’s a viewpoint all Indian Americans could get on board with.

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Rep. Ro Khanna responds to criticism over Hindutva tweet

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Ro Khanna

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — Diya TV spoke exclusively with Silicon Valley Congressman Ro Khanna to get his response in the aftermath of a barrage of criticism he’s faced after posting a tweet that appeared to endorse an anti-Hindu activist.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to hold 20 bilateral meetings during his time in the U.S., including with President Trump. His speech at the UN will focus on India’s efforts in development, peace and security, but no further explanation on Kashmir, as it’s deemed an internal matter.

The Biden campaign hired Maju Varghese, a former Obama White House aide, to be its Chief Operating Officer and Senior Advisor.

Nova Southeastern University’s new Tampa Bay Regional Campus is now open, made possible thanks to a $200 million donation by Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel.

And ‘A Little Late with Lilly Singh’ debuted on NBC, with her first guest none then other than Mindy Kaling. Singh, who is Indo-Canadian, becomes the first woman of color ever to host a late night network show.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Indian American IMPACT Summit showcases new leaders

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Impact Summit

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — A large contingent of politically engaged Indian Americans met at the Indian American Impact Summit in Washington to hear from current leaders and meet some that are on the rise. Diya TV was a proud media partner in the showcase that featured Democratic National Committee CEO Seema Nanda, and a host of local, state and federal candidates.

Prime Minister Modi and President Trump are scheduled to meet twice in the next week, according to Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Harsh Shringla, saying the India-US relationship has the potential to become the “defining partnership” this century. Full coverage of the Modi Trump Community Summit in Houston starts Sunday at 10 am Eastern, 7 am Pacific.

Indian American attorney Suraj Patel is launching another run for the 12th Congressional District in New York City, taking on fellow Democrat Carolyn Maloney once again.

Silicon Valley resident Natasha Gupta announced she is running for the California State Assembly in the 25th District. Gupta says she didn’t expect to run for office at this point in her life, but the turning point was the Gilroy Garlic Festival Shooting, as she was in attendance the day before.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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