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Tribute to
NRI pioneers and patriots
Celebrating Indian American Heritage

Los Angeles, May 03, 2009
Raj Grewal

President Obama, on May 1, 2009, proclaimed May 2009, as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and called upon the people of the United States to learn more about the history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities.

Indian American community in Southern California organized a tribute function on May 3, 2009 at Woodlands banquet hall to pay celebrating Indian American heritage. Inder Singh, President GOPIO Int’l who coordinated the event had been emphasizing, “If we, Indian Americans, want others to know about us, then we must first know who we are.”

The tribute function comprised of two seminars, the first on “Migration and Settlement” and the second on “contributions of Indian Americans after citizenship and liberalization of US Immigration Laws.”

Professor Emeritus Ram Mohan Roy, Cal State Northridge spoke on “Migration & Struggle for Survival” and talked about the discriminatory laws against Indian nationals during the first half of the twentieth century. Indians were mistreated and thrown out of the hotels. Since then, many things have changed while some still persist. The influence of Indians then living in America also changed the ideology of Indian nationalist leaders in their struggle for India’s independence.

Surinder Pal Singh from Atlanta, grandson of late Bhai Bagwan Singh Giyani, second president of Gadar party, talked about the Gadar Movement with reference to the struggle for self survival during that time when the British Government kept a close watch of his nationalistic activities first in India, then in Hong Kong where he was arrested twice and Canada from where he was deported. Soon after coming to America, he became president of Gadar Party and started the movement of “do or die” and “Allan-e-Jung” in 1914.

Roshn Lal Sharma of Dallas who came to the US in 1949, talked about the after math of Gadar Movement as witnessed by his father-in-law Abnashi Ram who came in 1920 and financially supported the activities of the movement. Abnashi Ram wrote over 1000 letters from which Roshan has prepared a book chronicling the history of struggle and fight for independence by the Indian community activists of that time.
David Thind, son of Bhgat Singh Thind talked about the struggle for US citizenship which his father had to wage. Thind got citizenship three times and it was revoked each time. His citizenship case went to the US Supreme Court where the judge denied him citizenship as he was not a white person though he was Caucasian. Bhagat Singh had joined US army, became sergeant and was honorably discharged in 1918 at the end of WWI. He eventually got his citizenship in 1936 only after US Congress passed a law granting citizenship to all veterans of WWI.

Mohinder Singh, Editor of India Journal talked about how US citizenship was gained, lost and then regained. He talked about the cruelty that Indian nationals suffered at the hands of INS. He mentioned that it was not only the citizenship of Mr. Thind which was revoked but of many more who had been given citizenship by various US courts. After losing faith in the justice system, Indian community activists, Dalip Singh Saund, J.J. Singh, Anup Singh and some others, pursued with the members of the Congress and eventually succeeded when President Truman, on July 2, 1946, signed a bill passed by the US Congress allowing 100 Indian nationals to get US citizenship annually.

Rani Cardona is granddaughter of Vaishno and Kala Bagai, who immigrated to US in 1915 with $25,000 worth of gold to start a new life in the US. Rani related the story of her grandfather who got citizenship in 1923 but was nullified after Thind decision. It was a major shock for Rani’s grandfather. He could not buy a house, had problem owning a business and eventually took his own life. His suicide note which was published in San Francisco Examiner at that time, moved every heart in the audience.

Professor Arnold Kaminsky, Director of Yadunandan Center of India studies, Cal State University, Long beach, chaired the session.

The second session was chaired by Professor Emeritus Bala Sardeshi of UCLA, and author of many books. Dr. Parakash Narain, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Cypress talked about the Religious and Yoga movements. Swami Vivekaand was the first to introduce Hindu religion to Americans. The successive religious leaders and yoga teachers, continued to spread the message of the Vedas. He, as a practicing physician, advises his patients to use yoga to take care of their every day high blood pressure and stress problems.

Harry Sidhu Councilman of city of Anaheim talked about the necessity of getting involved in the city politics. He advised all Indians to get involved in school boards, city councils and get united to have a voice to get recognition. Navin Doshi an engineer, philosopher, philanthropist, came to this country in 1958 for post graduate program in engineering, talked about the contributions of Indians in variety of ways to the country of their adoption.

Baljit Toor talked about Indian philanthropy. It all started with Jawala Singh, farm laborer turned potato farmer, who in the beginning of the twentieth century, instituted Guru Gobind Singh scholarship to attract Indian students to come to America for higher education. She mentioned names of many Indian philanthropists who have donated millions for various causes in India and the US. She also mentioned names of Indian Americans from Los Angeles area who have given their due share. Navin Doshi, in 1999, endowed “the Pratima and Navin Doshi” chair of Indian history at UCLA and a professorship in Loyola Marymount University. Jagdish Khangura started Baba Kartar Singh Dukki higher secondary school in his grandfathers’ name in his village Latala, India.

Inder Singh, in his concluding remarks, thanked everyone and particularly his volunteer colleagues without whose help the event would not have been possible. He thanked the event sponsors, Sir speedy printing, Tustin, and Balwinder Garcha and Munish Makkar of Ambala Cash and Carry for their financial support. He also urged the audience that just as we have contributed to build temples and gurdwaras, it is high time that we also build institutions to truly pay tribute to the memory of our pioneers and patriots.





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Mohinder Singh, Editor of India Journal talked about how US citizenship was gained, lost and then regained.

  • Click here:
  1. It has been a long Journey, Indians in America- Before and after Attaining Citizenship Rights
  2. Struggle of Indians for US Citizenship
  3. Bhagat Singh Thind: The Legacy of an Indian Pioneer- In the annals of Asians’ struggle for US citizenship, Bhagat Singh Thind’s fight for citizenship occupies a prominent
  4. Dalip S. Saund, The First Asian in U.S. Congress- was the first Indian American and also the first among Asian Americans to be elected to the US Congress. ...