On November 14, 2018, the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, through its Office of Public Affairs, held its 2nd annual Advocacy Day. The day began with BAPS members from across the country coming to Washington D.C. to meet with their members of Congress and their staff and ended with a Diwali and Hindu New Year celebration at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill.

Throughout the day’s events, 95 BAPS members were able to meet with a total of 93 Congressional offices as part of BAPS’s ongoing efforts to bring about greater awareness amongst lawmakers in Congress of the Hindu-American community and its traditions and beliefs, as well as to advocate on issues important to the community.  For 36 of those meetings, members of the House and Senate joined their staff to hear directly from BAPS members.

The day culminated with a celebration of Diwali and the Hindu New Year, attended by 26 members of the House and Senate. Also in attendance were Indian Ambassador to the United States, the Honorable Navtej Sarna, and White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah.

Speaking at the Diwali celebration at the Dirksen building, Angelina Mehta, a BAPS and United States Marine Corps Reserve member, spoke about celebrating Diwali away from home for the first time while on active duty.  “It was in the spirit of this holiday that I first step foot onto the famous yellow footprints at Recruit Depot in Parris Island,” she said.  “Somehow, the spirit of this traditional festival helped me remain steady and succeed throughout the training.”

Representative Pete Sessions (TX-32) noted the success of Indian Americans: “They have been educated. They have been enlightened. They have been driven. America is a land not just of opportunity, but a land of people who care deeply about the world we live in. That message you give to your countrymen is the same message that this festival of light is all about.”

Commenting on the event’s significance, Ambassador Sarna noted, “Diwali is many things, but [this Diwali celebration] is a recognition of the position that the Indian American community has in the United States.”

Joined by eight partner organizations – co-hosts Indiaspora and the Hindu American Foundation (HAF); co-sponsors Art of Living Foundation, US-India Friendship Council, Jain Society of Metropolitan Washington, Jain International Trade Organization, and Federation of Jain Associations in North America; and with support from the U.S. India Business Council – this wonderful event was an incredible opportunity for all to celebrate Diwali in the nation’s capital, reflect on its timeless and universal message, raise awareness of and for the Indian-American community, and interact with a wide range of representatives on Capitol Hill.

Attendees included:
Members of the House
French Hill (AR-2)
Peter Roskam (IL-6)
Ami Bera (CA-7)
Danny Davis (IL-7)
Ro Khanna (CA-17)
Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-8)
Norma Torres (CA-35)
Garret Graves (LA-6)
Mike Coffman (CO-6)
Donald Norcross (NJ-1)
Ted Deutch (FL-22)
Gregory Meeks (NY-5)
Sanford Bishop (GA-2)
Grace Meng (NY-6)
Hank Johnson (GA-4)
Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-8)
Rob Woodall (GA-7)
Keith Rothfus (PA-12)
Tom Graves (GA-14)
Pete Sessions (TX-32)
Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2)
Pramila Jayapal (WA-7)
Members of the Senate
Bill Cassidy (LA)
John Boozman (AR)
Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS)
Thom Tillis (NC)

More information, videos, and pictures can be found by following the BAPS Office of Public Affairs on Twitter at @BAPS_PubAffairs.