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NYC mayor urges people to ‘live in the spirit’ of Lord Ram, Sita, Deepavali as communities grapple with hate crimes

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The Deepavali celebration came just a week after the decision to declare the Festival of Lights a public school holiday in New York City.

The Deepavali celebration came just a week after the decision to declare the Festival of Lights a public school holiday in New York City.

As communities grapple with hate crimes and darkness, New York City Mayor Eric Adams urged people to “live in the spirit” of Lord Ram, Sita and Deepavali and be the “beacon of light” and hope every day of the year.

“There is too much darkness. We have been engulfed in the desire to simply find places where we disagree,” he said Tuesday, making a clear appeal to people and communities “to live true to what is Deepavali”.

“Let’s live in the mind of Ram, live in the mind of Sita. Let’s live in the spirit of Deepavali. Let us live up to what this holiday stands for and then we will know that we have fulfilled our responsibility and obligation,” Mr. Adams said as he wished Happy Deepavali to a large gathering of prominent members of Indo- American, South Asian and other communities at a Deepavali celebration held at his official residence.

“It is time for us to rise to Deepavali, to sit up and communicate, to push back against hate crimes against Sikhs, against AAPI [Asian American Pacific Islander], against those in the LGBTQ+ communities, against African Americans, Latinos, Irish and Jews and Poles and all the other groups that make this city. We must be the beacon that shows the country how we must push back the darkness,” he told the gathering of more than 1,100 people.

Joined by India‘s Consul General in New York Randhir Jaiswal, prominent lawmakers of Indian descent – including Kevin Thomas who was elected in 2018 to represent Nassau County’s 6th district, becoming the first Indian-American in New York history to serve in the State Senate – and New York Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar, Mr. Adams stressed the importance of celebrating Deepavali’s message every day and not just the day of the festival.

“If we only celebrate the removal of darkness for one day, then we are betraying the principles of Deepavali. It is every day that we have to live at this scale and at this height,” he said.

“My Sikh brothers and sisters” are feeding thousands of people in their Gurdwaras, regardless of people’s religion and faith, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, Adams said.

The Deepavali celebration came just a week after the decision to declare the Festival of Lights a public school holiday in New York City. Ms. Rajkumar, the first South Asian American woman to be elected to state office in New York, introduced legislation in the state capitol that makes room for Deepavali in the school calendar.

“As Hindu Americans, it’s time for us to be seen for who we are. Ours is the culture that inspired Martin Luther King Jr’, who called India’s Mahatma Gandhi the “beacon” of his movement for social change, Ms Rajkumar said.

“As American Hindus, we hold a central place in this country’s civil rights tradition. As Hindu-Americans, we believe in mutual respect and love for all religions,” she said.

Stressing the importance of respecting women and treating them equally and with dignity, Mr Adams said: “We always think of Ram when we think of Deepavali, we think of the fight against evil” and how Ram “pushed back the darkness and brought the light”. . But when you look at this important story, don’t forget Sita, don’t write Sita out of this story. Sita was a strong woman who did not succumb to all the riches, to all the glory that darkness wanted to give her. She remained firm and committed.”

During the celebration, the Deputy Commissioner of the Office of the Mayor of New York for International Affairs, Dilip Chauhan, chaired a special awards ceremony during which the main organizations of the diaspora were honored for their contribution and their “exceptional work” for the communities.

Among the honorees were the World Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), GOPIO President Dr. Thomas Abraham accepting the honour; the Indiaspora non-profit organization founded by entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist MR Rangaswami; Grammy-winning artist Falguni Shah, known by her stage name Falu; Tulsi Mandir, based in Queens; and the diaspora organization Federation of Indian Associations (FIA), whose president Ankur Vaidya accepted the honor on behalf of the organization.

Pandit Lakhram Maharaj, the founder of Shri Tulsi Mandir, accepted the honor on behalf of the temple.

In August, a homemade statue of Mahatma Gandhi was destroyed by a group of six with a sledgehammer at the Tulsi Mandir.

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