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Saturday, October 8, 2016

First U.S. Stamp For Diwali Formally Unveiled

A number of Indian-Americans crowded into the Indian Consulate in New York Oct. 5, to witness the formal unveiling of the first Diwali “Forever” stamp released by the U.S. Postal Service. The ceremonies included lighting of the traditional Indian lamp-lighting ceremony led by India’s Consul General in New York Riva Ganguly Das.

The solemnity of the occasion was marked by uniformed officers holding the U.S. national flag alongside the USPS flag on the stage. The USPS Vice President for Mail Entry and Payment Technology Pritha Mehra represented the agency.

A USPS stall selling First Day Covers of the Diwali stamp was set up at the Consulate and people crowded around to buy the issues.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, and members of the Indian community who led the final push to get the stamp issued after years of struggle, spoke at the event including Ranju Batra, chair of the Diwali Stamp Project.

Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s former Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and Congresswoman Grace Meng, D-N.Y., were also present at the unveiling.

Mehra, who was joined by Riva Ganguly, Ranju Batra, and Rep. Maloney, in unveiling a massive portrait of the Diwali stamp, called it “an honour” to issue it, adding, “We hope these will light up millions of cards and letters as they make their journey through the mail stream,” the Indian news channel NDTV reported.

Maloney noted the stamp was the culmination of years of advocacy, including thousands of petition signatures, multiple meetings with Indian Prime Minister Modi, personal appeals to President Obama, and multiple Congressional Resolutions.

Ranju Batra called it a “dream come true,” adding, “Now for the first time there is a stamp that celebrates Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists as Americans forever. The Diwali stamp will be a matter of pride for generations to come,” news reports said. Her husband, attorney Ravi Batra, chair of the National Advisory Council on South Asian Affairs, is quoted in news reports saying the stamp “represents nothing short of respectful inclusive indivisibility within America and between the two sovereigns,” India and the U.S.

Others present at the event were M.R. Rangaswami, chair of the California-based organization, Indiaspora, TV Asia Chairman H.R. Shah and several prominent Indian-Americans.

“It has taken many years of hard work and advocacy but light has finally triumphed!,” Maloney is quoted saying in a press release from her office said.
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