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America is the ‘primary partner’ for India’s transformation, says PM Modi in Washington

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President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi making joint statements in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington

 

President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi making joint statements in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington

President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi making joint statements in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington

 

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — In a historic visit, the Prime Minister of India is visiting the United States with an invitation from the Trump White House. Earlier today,Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump had a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Room before heading out the White House’s Rose Garden. In his statements Prime Minister Modi called USA the “primary partner” in the future transformation of India, while President Trump noted that India now has a “true friend” in the White House. Complete remarks from both the leaders, as recoded by the White house are below:

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Thank you very much.  Prime Minister Modi, thank you for being here with us today.  It’s a great honor to welcome the leader of the world’s largest democracy to the White House.

I have always had a deep admiration for your country and for its people, and a profound appreciation for your rich culture, heritage and traditions.  This summer, India will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its independence, and on behalf of the United States, I want to congratulate the Indian people on this magnificent milestone in the life of your very, very incredible nation.

During my campaign, I pledged that if elected, India would have a true friend in the White House.  And that is now exactly what you have – a true friend.  The friendship between the United States and India is built on shared values, including our shared commitment to democracy.  Not many people know it, but both American and the Indian constitutions begin with the same three very beautiful words:  We the people.

The Prime Minister and I both understand the crucial importance of those words, which helps to form the foundation of cooperation between our two countries.  Relations between countries are strongest when they are devoted to the interests of the people we serve.  And after our meetings today, I will say that the relationship between India and the United States has never been stronger, has never been better.

I’m proud to announce to the media, to the American people, and to the Indian people, that Prime Minister Modi and I are world leaders in social media – (laughter) – we’re believers – giving the citizens of our countries the opportunity to hear directly from their elected officials, and for us to hear directly from them.  I guess it’s worked very well in both cases.

I am thrilled to salute you, Prime Minister Modi, and the Indian people for all that you are accomplishing together.  Your accomplishments have been vast.  India has the fastest growing economy in the world.  We hope we’re going to be catching you very soon in terms of percentage increase, I have to tell you that.  We’re working on it.  

In just two weeks, you will begin to implement the largest tax overhaul in your country’s history – we’re doing that also, by the way – creating great new opportunities for your citizens.  You have a big vision for improving infrastructure, and you are fighting government corruption, which is always a grave threat to democracy.

Together, our countries can help chart an optimistic path into the future, one that unleashes the power of new technology, new infrastructure, and the enthusiasm and excitement of very hardworking and very dynamic people.

I look forward to working with you, Mr. Prime Minister, to create jobs in our countries, to grow our economies, and to create a trading relationship that is fair and reciprocal.  It is important that barriers be removed to the export of U.S. goods into your markets, and that we reduce our trade deficit with your country.  

I was pleased to learn about an Indian Airlines recent order of 100 new American planes, one of the largest orders of its kind, which will support thousands and thousands of American jobs.  We’re also looking forward to exporting more American energy to India as your economy grows, including major long-term contracts to purchase American natural gas, which are right now being negotiated, and we will sign them.  Trying to get the price up a little bit.

To further our economic partnership, I’m excited to report that the Prime Minister has invited my daughter, Ivanka, to lead the U.S. delegation to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India this fall.  And I believe she has accepted.  

Finally, the security partnership between the United States and India is incredibly important.  Both our nations have been struck by the evils of terrorism, and we are both determined to destroy terrorist organizations and the radical ideology that drives them.  We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism.  Our militaries are working every day to enhance cooperation between our military forces.  And next month, they will join together with the Japanese navy to take place in the largest maritime exercise ever conducted in the vast Indian Ocean.

I also thank the Indian people for their contributions to the effort in Afghanistan, and for joining us in applying new sanctions against the North Korean regime.  The North Korean regime is causing tremendous problems and is something that has to be dealt with, and probably dealt with rapidly.

Working together, I truly believe our two countries can set an example for many other nations, make great strides in defeating common threats, and make great progress in unleashing amazing prosperity and growth.

Prime Minister Modi, thank you again for joining me today, and for visiting our country and our wonderful White House and Oval Office.  I enjoyed our very productive conversation this afternoon, and look forward to its continuation tonight at dinner.  The future of our partnership has never looked brighter.  India and the United States will always be tied together in friendship and respect.

Prime Minister Modi, thank you very much.  Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  

PRIME MINISTER MODI:  (As interpreted.)  President Donald Trump and First Lady, Vice President, ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen of the media:  Right from the opening tweet to the end of our talks, President Trump’s welcome, which was filled with friendliness, his warm welcome to the White House by himself and the First Lady, I would like to thank both of you from the bottom of my heart for this warm welcome.

I would also like to give a special thanks to you, President Trump, for having spent so much time with me, for having spoken such kind words about me and my country.  And I would like to tell you that I’m eager to welcome your daughter to India for the Entrepreneurship Summit. President Trump, I’d once again like to thank you for the time that you have spent with me.  I’d like to give you special thanks for that.

My visit and our talks today will mark a very important page in the history of the collaboration and cooperation between our two nations.  The talks between his Excellency, President Trump, and myself today have been extremely important from all points of view, for several reasons:  Because they were based on mutual trust; because of the convergence and similarities they revealed in our values, and our priorities, and in our concerns and interests; because they focused on the highest levels of achievement in our cooperation, and mutual support, and partnership; because our two countries are global engines of growth; because the all-around or comprehensive economic growth and joint progress of both countries and both societies is the main objective for both the President and myself, and will remain so; because the top priority for both President Trump and myself is to protect our society from global challenges like terrorism; and because our aim is the strengthening of India and the USA – two great democracies in the world – friends.

Our robust strategic partnership is such that it touches upon almost all areas of human endeavor.  In our conversation today, President Trump and I have discussed all dimensions of India-U.S. relations at length.  Both nations are committed to a bilateral architecture that will take our strategic partnership to new heights.

In this relationship, in both countries, increased productivity, growth, job creation, and breakthrough technologies – an engagement towards all these are, and will remain, strong drivers of our cooperation, and will give further momentum to our relationship.

We consider the USA as our primary partner for India’s social and economic transformation in all our flagship programs and schemes.  I am sure that the convergence between my vision for a “new India and President Trump’s vision for “making America great again” will add new dimensions to our cooperation.

I am very clear about the fact that India’s interests lie in a strong, and prosperous, and successful America.  In the same way, India’s development and its growing role at the international level are in the USA’s interest.  

One of our common priorities will be the development of trade, commerce, and investment links.  And in this regard, in the technology, innovation, and knowledge-economy sectors, the expansion and deepening of cooperation is also among our priorities.  Towards this end, we shall take steps to further strengthen our successful digital partnership.  

Friends, we are not just partners by chance.  We are also partners in dealing with current and future challenges that we may be faced with.  Today, during our meeting, we discussed the serious challenges of terrorism, extremism, and radicalization, which are the major challenges facing the world today.  And we have agreed to enhance our cooperation in fighting against these scourges.  Fighting terrorism and doing away with the safe shelters, sanctuaries, and safe havens will be an important part of our cooperation.

With respect to our common concerns on terrorism, we will also enhance our sharing of intelligence, and exchange information to deepen and expand our policy coordination as far as possible.  

We also spoke at length on regional issues.  The increasing instability, due to terrorism, in Afghanistan is one of our common concerns.  Both India and America have played an important role in rebuilding Afghanistan and ensuring its security.  In order to attain our objectives for peace and stability in Afghanistan, we will maintain close consultation and communication with the U.S. to enhance coordination between our two nations.

In the Indo-Pacific region, in order to maintain peace, stability, and prosperity in the region, this is also another objective of our strategic cooperation in this area.  The increasing possibilities for enhancing cooperation in order to protect our strategic interests will continue to determine the dimensions of our partnership.  We will continue to work with the USA in this region.

With regard to security-related challenges, our enhanced and growing defense and security cooperation is extremely important.  We have spoken at length on this subject as well.  

The strengthening of India’s defense capabilities, with the help of USA, is something that we truly appreciate.  We have also decided to enhance maritime security cooperation between the two nations.  President Trump and I have also spoken about strengthening bilateral defense technology and our trade and manufacturing partnership, which we believe will be mutually beneficial to us.

We also discussed international issues and our common strategic interests.  In this context, we are extremely grateful for the continued support of the United States for India’s membership of international institutions and regimes.  We truly appreciate the support, because this is also in the interest of both our nations.

President Trump, I thank you for your feelings of friendship towards India and myself.  I deeply appreciate your strong commitment to the enhancement of our bilateral relations.  I am sure that under your leadership, our mutually beneficial strategic partnership will gain new strength, new positivity, and will reach new heights, and that your vast and successful experience in the business world will lend an aggressive and forward-looking agenda to our relations.  

In this journey of India-America relations, I think I would like to thank you for providing great leadership.  Be assured that in this joint journey of our two nations towards development, growth and prosperity, I will remain a driven, determined, and decisive partner. 

Excellency, my visit today and the extensive talks I have held with you have been very successful, very fruitful.  And before leaving this mic, I would like to invite you to India, along with your family.  And I hope that you will give me the opportunity to welcome you and host you in India.  

And at the end, once again, I’d like to thank you for the warm welcome extended by you and the First Lady to myself and my delegation, from the bottom of my heart.  Thank you.

Arts & Culture

Miss India Manushi Chillar brings home the Miss World crown after 17 years

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NEW DELHI (Diya TV) — Manushi Chhillar, a medicine student from Haryana, India won the crown for Miss World 2017, topping her competition to take home the coveted title.

20-year-old Chhillar, stunned by her own victory,tweeted:


It’s been 17 years since the country has won the title, according to the Miss India twitter account, and the sixth time an Indian woman has been crowned the winner. The last winner was none other than Bollywood actress turned American Network TV Star, Priyanka Chopra who tweeted:


Manushi couldn’t believe her win (Image: AFP)

Contestants from all over the world took part in the 67th Miss World beauty pageant, which was held in China.
Miss Mexico, Andrea Meza came in 2nd & Miss England, Stephanie Hill came in 3rd.

Miss India Manushi Chhilar (C) smiles as she wins the 67th Miss World contest final next to second place, Miss Mexico Alma Andrea Meza Carmona (L), and 3rd place, Miss England Stephanie Jayne Hill (Image: AFP)

Miss India Manushi Chhilar (C) smiles as she wins the 67th Miss World contest final next to second place, Miss Mexico Alma Andrea Meza Carmona (L), and 3rd place, Miss England Stephanie Jayne Hill (Image: AFP)

Congratulatory tweets soon followed:

Manushi beat her competition from 108 women representing their countries. Former Miss World Stephanie Del Valle, from Puerto Rico crowned, Manushi as per tradition.

ormer Miss World 2016 Stephanie Del Valle crowns Miss India Manushi Chillar as the new Miss World (Image: AFP)

ormer Miss World 2016 Stephanie Del Valle crowns Miss India Manushi Chillar as the new Miss World (Image: AFP)


The 20-year-old, whose parents are both doctors, said in an interview that mothers around the world deserve the highest salary of every profession. She added, “My mother has been my biggest inspiration, so I have to say, a mother’s job. It is not always about cash, but love and respect as well. A mother deserves that the most.”

Before her win, she said: “”The only thing I believe is certain in life is uncertainty, and this is what is amazing about the pageant.”

Manushi takes the coveted blue crown (Image: AFP)

Manushi takes the coveted blue crown (Image: AFP)

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Hindu Americans claim victory in decade long battle over representation in California Textbooks

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The Vennala family drove all the way from Los Angeles to speak at this public hearing.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Diya TV) — The pursuit of accurate and equitable representation of Hindus in California textbooks began over a decade ago. Hundreds of Hindu Americans, some Jains, Sikhs, Muslims and Dalits descended upon the State’s capital of Sacramento to voice their respective concerns on the depiction of Hinduism in History and Social Sciences textbooks. The fight that began in earnest in 2006 came down to the final public hearing with respect to the adoption of the new framework, today. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Tolarkson along with other members of the State Board of Education heard from publishers who came to defend their edits, parents, students and teachers.

In 2012 when Diya TV spoke to the Hindu American Foundation(HAF) about their work on California textbooks, Samir Kalra then Senior Fellow of Human Rights at HAF said, “We started hearing from concerned parents asking us to help”. When they tried to address these concerns, HAF realized that they were being denied due process, so they sued the California Department of Education and won.

Over the years, that led to the work of HAF with the Instructional Quality Commission, or the IQC, formerly known as the Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission, which was first established in 1927 as an advisory body to the State Board of Education (SBE)

The scene outside the California Department of Education on November 10th, 2017 on the morning of the final public hearing in the matter of History and Social Sciences California textbook adoption.

In 2014, HAF worked with public officials and community members to get the issue in front of the California State Senate and Assembly to change the State’s content standards for textbooks. Both the Senate and the Assembly approved it, but Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill, despite overwhelming and bipartisan support from legislators and from a coalition of more than 100 educators, diverse community and education groups, and government leaders.

With no luck in changing content standards, in the fall of 2014, HAF along with the support of the Hindu American community and over 100 organizations took on the next step of working with the state’s curriculum framework revision process, to seek what they describe as a more inclusive set of guidelines for teaching about diverse religions like Hinduism and diverse communities like Indian Americans.

During this time, the California textbooks story had received some attention in the media. Groups of scholars submitted their recommendations disagreeing about certain key issues.

By spring of 2016, the IQC was getting ready to make recommendations on the framework, which if approved by the State Board of Education (SBE) would be adopted for the next decade. For HAF and majority of the Hindu parents and students involved in the process this was problematic. They didn’t want the narratives drawn from the state’s outdated content standards which depicted Hindus in negative and grossly inaccurate ways, to remain in California textbooks.

The big hearing was set for May 19th, 2016.

By summer of 2016, the story picked up steam, from local news stations in the Bay Area, to the New York Times, and ofcourse Diya TV, this story was now gaining national attention.

Enter, South Asian Histories for All (SAHFA) , a group that disagrees with the edits proposed by the Hindu American Foundation and the Uberoi Foundation, characterizing them as inaccurate and Hindu nationalist. Nearly 4,500 people signed a public petition standing with SAHFA. Over 200 California parents signed on to a letter of support. More than 75 California K-12 school educators signed a letter from educators. Students from 30 California universities signed on to a student letter. Scholars from 80 universities signed on to a letter in support of the edits submitted by the South Asia Faculty Group.

In support of SAHFA, some Sikh and Muslim groups came to voice their concerns, stating that the edits proposed by the HAF are inaccurate. Specifically, the characterization of caste. Therein lied the crux of the disagreement.

Neither group disagreed about the existence of the caste system, or its oppressive nature. Diya TV was present at the May 19th hearing and managed to get both sides, Anirvan Chatterjee from SAHFA & Samir Kalra from HAF to engage with us in a pre-hearing debate:

For an in-depth read into the scholars that each group referred to in this video, read our article, here.

HAF argued that although the ‘caste system’ as it is called today, is part of Hindu religion, its not a Hindu term, but a Portuguese term that we now use to refer what the Hindus understand to be a combination of two classifications, ‘Jati’ & ‘Varna’. Jati refers to the classification you are born in and Varna refers to one’s natural propensity. Hindus cited examples of sages and authors such as ‘Valmiki’ and ‘Vyasa’ and how they, even though born in lower jatis were able to move upwards due to their natural propensities and became widely revered by Hindus as the authors of the great epics such as ‘Ramayana‘ & ‘Mahabharata‘, thereby suggesting that social mobility across caste lines was possible and the Hindu religion’s social structure of Jati and Varna weren’t inherently oppressive in nature.

To which SAHFA’s Thenmozhi Soundararajan countered,

“There is no way that one would self-govern yourself into oppression,”

during the public comment of the hearing. Over a 100 volunteers of SAHFA cited numerous examples of oppression, faced by generations due to the caste system. Denouncing terms such as ‘untouchables’ or ‘lower-caste’, SAHFA urged the IQC to install the word ‘Dalit’, instead.

The arguments continued in the public comment period as each group argued the other by organizing and scripting counters to what was being said. SAHFA accused the Hindu groups of attempting to revise history and the Hindu groups, led mostly by HAF insisted it was doing no such thing.

There were many other points of contention, a big one was the use of terms ‘India’ or ‘South Asia’

SAHFA argued the term ‘India’ is inaccurate and should be replaced by ‘South Asia’, stating that India became a sovereign state only after the British left and divided the region into India, Pakistan & Bangladesh (then West Pakistan). Moreover, the Indus Valley civilization, which now falls under modern-day Pakistan, be noted as the collective heritage of South Asia.

Hindu groups disagreed. According to them, learning about ‘Ancient India’ should not be confused by modern day “geo-political” terms such as South Asia. They cited numerous examples showing that pre-1947, the region was referred to as ‘India’ or some derivative of that word. One of the public comments asked of the IQC, how did Columbus mistakenly find ‘India’ in the 1400s if that wasn’t a term for the nation till 1947?

Some Hindu Americans argued, by saying “its no different than referring to the Greek Civilization or the Chinese Civilization, these regions today are not exactly what they were during ancient times, but we still refer to them by their ancient names.”

The debate had now become polarized. By June 2016, the revised draft of the curriculum was released on the CDE’s website.

Both sides were now submitting papers, edits and additional research to support their narrative.

SAHFA sent three submissions: SAHFA letter, July 7, 2016; Muslim community organization letter, July 7, 2016; Muslim Studies Faculty letter, July 5, 2016

In addition to the four academic letters by professors of religion and history as signatories or lead authors, HAF made eight submissions. from 2014 leading up to the fall of 2016.

They also released a Bullying report in 2016 entitled Bullying and Bias Against Hindu Students in American Schools. It found one in three Hindu American students reported being bullied because of their religious beliefs, due in part to textbook content.

On September 28, 2017 the IQC rejected Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Kids Discover​ ​California​ ​Social​ ​Studies (K-6) and Houghton Mifflin​ ​Harcourt: Social ​​Studies for California ​​(6-8) draft textbooks.

On October 8th and 9th of 2017, the IQC held its final public hearing to discuss draft edits with the textbook publishers, before they would make their final recommendations to the State Board in November. This time even though the hearing was split into two days, hundreds of Hindu parents and students travelled from across the state. Professors and scholars who had authored papers in support of Hindu Americans also spoke at the public hearing.
SAHFA and its volunteers did not show up.

In early November, HAF worked to get support from several public officials across the nation and across party lines.

The morning of November 9th 2017, hundreds of Hindu Americans, parents, students, scholars and teachers lined up early morning outside the California Department of Education and this time, so did the volunteers of SAHFA.

Members of several racial minorities and groups came out in support of Hindu Americans. Glenn Fujii National Executive Director of APAPA said to the SBE, “I am here today to support our Hindu and Indian American communities. We really urge you to reject these two textbooks (K-8) from HMH who really disrespect and inappropriately represent the Hindu American community.”

Asian American business owner, and APAPA board member Mary Yin Liu said, “Much groundwork has been laid before today. In good faith and with due diligence the community has reached out to many book publishers, most have made the simple updates and accommodations, however we are appalled and disappointed to see the disparity remain with these three publishers and we ask that they treat the races and countries and religions equally for all and not just a few” referring to HMH, McGraw Hill and National Geographic.

SAHFA volunteers argued passionately, that caste is part of Hinduism and the effects of which are still alive and well in modern-day India. Some citied instances of violence and abuse faced by Dalits in India while others drew parallels between slavery and the caste System.

Barnali Ghosh from SAHFA entreated the SBE, “Textbooks should be based on the best scholarship, they should be respectful and nuanced and they shouldn’t whitewash the truth, or promote alternative facts. That’s why we have come together against the Hindu lobby pushing against Islamophobia, caste denial and religious nationalism in our textbooks.”

A Sacramento attorney, Amar Shergill who is a board member of the Sacramento Sikh Temple and an executive board member of the California Democratic Party, said to the SBE to “be very careful about overturning previous decisions of the board in a way that provides unequal, disparate treatment to a specific group that’s lobbying you. You might open yourself up to litigation.” He added on behalf of SAHFA, “We should have empathy for the Hindu community, its not their fault that they are Americans now and beneficiaries of the oppressive South Asian culture.”

Sikh American Legal Defense & Education Fund (SALDEF) Co-Founder Dr. Jaideep Singh spoke in support of SAHFA and said “The reason we have Nazis marching in Charlottesville is because of the lack of courage we have in telling the truth about who we are. The same problem is occurring right here. Yes, our history with caste is very ugly, but that doesn’t mean we should erase it.”

Mala Frank-Gavin, a retired school teacher from Roland Heights Unified School District reminded the board of the importance of accuracy, “Since these textbooks will be used for 10 years, it is crucial to give students accurate information. If they are given anything inaccurate, they tend to doubt anything you try and teach them”

Shivangi Singh, a junior from Evergreen Valley High School in San Jose told the board that she had come to speak two years ago and was disappointed that not much had changed in the textbooks since. Singh added “I am a firm believer in the idea that education should be unbiased and you should have both the good and the bad portrayed through out the textbooks for the education to be truly unbiased. But I’d also like to remind you that every single religion has skeletons in their closet, but not every single religion is being portrayed the same. Every other religion has been given a fair chance and we haven’t been.”

After the public comments, Natasha Martin from the Teachers Curriculum Institute (TCI) testified before the board that they had collected and reviewed over 10,000 pages of comments from concerned citizens, groups, scholars, academicians and publishers and made its recommendations to the SBE. Rejecting two drafts of textbooks from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt(HMH) and proposing serveral edits to the McGraw Hill & National Geographic drafts among others. The California Department of Education(CDE), after this final hearing decided on the edits and corrections as recommended by the IQC.

When the Board President Mike Kirst declared the public hearing closed after nearly 500 people spoke, he said

“That was the longest in the history of the state Board of Education.”

The CDE says it won’t add any of the books to the list of adopted instruction materials unless all the edits recommended by the CDE have been made by the textbook publishers. The publishers have 60 days to make the suggested edits and updates.

“I feel the California Department of Education and thousands of members of the public have really made a profound and positive difference in the materials,” said board member Nicki Sandoval, who served as a liaison to the review process, along with Board Member Patricia Rucker. “Stakeholders, thank you for using your strong and loud voices, which informed the process, and your agile minds” to ensure “we’re fulfilling our responsibility to provide materials that are inclusive, accurate and respectful” and that will “help to build key understandings for young people” and ultimately to improve school climate and “foster a stronger sense of social responsibility.”

Samir Kalra, Senior Director at Hindu American Foundation seemed relieved as he spoke to Diya TV moments after the conclusion of the hearing

“A decade plus years of long time struggle for the Hindu American community, children, parents, community members all coming together to fight for equality, and dignity in textbooks, but today we emerge victorious and we are very appreciative of the work of the IQC and the State Board of Education in rejecting two of the worsts drafts from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.”

Responding to the allegations from the supporters of SAHFA, about the modern-day realities of oppression due to the caste system still prevalent in India and the attempt to erase caste, Kalra said, “Across the textbooks drafts, caste currently comprises of almost 30% of the material. Nobody was attempting to erase that.” Kalra added, “Hinduism should not be inherently linked to caste, because the Hindu scriptures at their base, do not promote caste based discrimination.”

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Ravi Bhalla becomes the first turbaned Sikh American Mayor of Hoboken New Jersey

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Ravi Bhalla elected the new Mayor of Hoboken, N.J.

HOBOKEN, NJ (Diya TV) — Two term Hoboken City council member Ravi Bhalla became the first turbaned Sikh to be elected mayor of the city of Hoboken, New Jersey. Tuesday night, Bhalla was all smiles, thrusting his arm in the air to celebrate his victory becoming one of the first Sikh mayors of a U.S. city. Sikh-American lawyer with a record of fighting discrimination, Bhalla says, “I’m everything that Trump hates. A brown man wearing a turban, and a proud American with the know-how to stop his assaults on our country’s values.”

A victory that didn’t come easy. Bhalla ran against five other candidates in Hoboken, a city of 50,000. The Saturday before election, Bhalla tweeted that the fliers about terrorism were “troubling, but we won’t let hate win.” CBS News reported that the fliers did not name the group that paid for them, a violation of state election law.

The community celebrated in part disbelief and part joy.

Simran Jeet Singh, a friend and support of Bhalla and a fellow turbaned Sikh tweeted in disbelief

“Given how much we’ve endured in this country, and frankly the fact that we have been here for more than a century now in the U.S. and have felt largely ignored and neglected as a minority community, this is for us a signal shift, where we feel like we’re getting on the map. This is a major development for us,” Simran Jeet Singh, a religion fellow at the Sikh Coalition, said. “And it comes in a context where, like many minority groups, we’re facing xenophobia.”

Gurwin Ahuja, executive director of the National Sikh Campaign, said Bhalla is one of the first Sikh people to become mayor of a U.S. city. Satyendra Huja served as mayor of the city of Charlottesville, and some small towns have had Sikh mayors.

Ahuja said that whoever made the fliers implying that “turban” meant “terrorist” interpreted the turban completely wrong. “Sikhs are instructed to be actively involved in their communities…. In fact, the reason why Sikhs wear a turban is because it represents our value of equality and to stand up against injustice wherever we see it,” he said. “The turban represents our commitment to those values of equality — gender equality, racial equality and religious tolerance — and our duty to stand up for those rights. In India, back in the day, when people would see a Sikh, they knew that was someone they could go to for safety.”

Bhalla, finished first among six candidates in the winner take all race, with 4,781 votes with around 34% of votes. DeFusco totaled 4,116 votes, or approximately 29 percent, according to Hudson County Clerk election results, which do no include mail-in and provisional ballots.

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