Rep. Ro Khanna Elected Co-Chair Of India Caucus

Congressman Ro Khanna, 46, a Democrat who represents California’s 17th Congressional District, is the co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, along with his Republican House colleague Mike Waltz (R-Fla) in the 118th Congress.

“The Indian-American diaspora can play such an important role in helping strengthen the US-India partnership. I think this is a historic moment for our community. I think we’re really emerging and coming into our own as a strong voice,” Khanna told the media.

Picture : Newsweek

The India Caucus is a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers that was established in 1993 to bolster New Delhi-Washington relations. Prior to Khanna, Congressman Ami Bera was the first Indian-American to be elected as the co-chair of the Caucus in 2015-2016 during the 115th Congress.

“I’m going to try to make it about not just us India, but also the Indian-American community and highlighting the contributions of that community,” Khanna was quoted to have said.

Indian Americans are the second-largest immigrant group in the US, with their population estimated to be around four million. As the profile of the community has grown, so too has its social, economic, and political influence.

There are presently five Indian Americans serving in the Congress, popularly known as the ‘Samosa Caucus’ — Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Pramila Jayapal, and Shri Thanedar. Khanna’s appointment comes amidst reports that he may be looking at a potential presidential run in 2024.

His recent moves have sparked speculation among Democrats in several key states that the Congressman has his eyes set on a higher office, according to Politico. “If President Biden didn’t seek re-election, his name would have to be on the list of top contenders,” Stacey Walker, founder of the Iowa-based firm Sage Strategies, said.

Khanna — son of immigrant parents from Punjab — is seen as one of the leaders of his party’s progressive wing, and a relative newcomer on the scene who has broad appeal and formidable skills.

On US-India relations, he said last month that the relationship between the two democracies could define the 21st century. Khanna had said in November 2022 that the US needs a strong defense and strategic partnership with India, especially in the face of escalating aggression from China. In September last year, he had introduced a standalone bill in the US House of Representatives seeking a waiver to India against the punitive CAATSA sanctions.

Rep. Ro Khanna will be a co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, he said in an exclusive interview last week. Khanna, a Democrat who has been representing California’s 17th Congressional District since 2017, will co-chair the caucus with Rep. Mike Waltz,.

“When I started on this journey, in my 20s, there was a huge novelty to having someone of Indian origin even enter politics,” he said. “The Indian American diaspora can play such an important role in helping strengthen the U.S.-India partnership. … I think this is a historic moment for our community. I think we’re really emerging and coming into our own as a strong voice.”

The caucus, which was established in 1993 to strengthen relations between the U.S. and India, was previously chaired by Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., and former Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio. Khanna said he hopes to take the caucus beyond its original goal. The Indian diaspora in the U.S. has its own unique needs, he said, and the position could be an opportunity to bring them to the forefront.

“I’m going to try to make it about not just us India, but also the Indian American community and highlighting the contributions of that community,” he said. “I think being Indian America and being part of the community, knowing so many of the community leaders, knowing the passions and interests of young people, I’ll be able to do that.”

Khanna said that having spent much of his career in Northern California’s Silicon Valley, he has been immersed in Indian American issues for years. The rising tide of Hindu nationalism is on the forefront of the diaspora’s collective consciousness; from professional spheres to college campuses, reports of Islamophobia and casteism abound in South Asian spaces.

Khanna hasn’t shied away from such conversations, and his vocalness has sparked outrage from right-wing Indian Americans. In 2019, 230 Hindu and Indian American entities wrote letter criticizing Khanna for denouncing Hindu nationalism (also known as Hindutva) and for advocating religious equality on the subcontinent.

“It’s the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva, and speak for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist & Christians,” Khanna tweeted at the time.

They also criticized Khanna for joining the Congressional Pakistan Caucus and for speaking out against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s revoking the state of Kashmir’s autonomy.

“Of course, we have to fulfill the strategic partnership and we have to respect the democratically elected leadership in India,” Khanna told NBC News. “I will work to strengthen that while also upholding these human rights values.”

“When I started on this journey, in my 20s, there was a huge novelty to having someone of Indian origin even enter politics,” he said. “The Indian American diaspora can play such an important role in helping strengthen the U.S.-India partnership. … I think this is a historic moment for our community. I think we’re really emerging and coming into our own as a strong voice.”

“Of course, we have to fulfill the strategic partnership and we have to respect the democratically elected leadership in India,” Khanna told NBC News. “I will work to strengthen that while also upholding these human rights values.”

“These kids of H1B are like the Dreamers,” Khanna said. “You have kids who came here when they were 2 or 3. They don’t have citizenship. … Even though they have grown up their whole life here, they’re in a vulnerable position.”

With both Republican and Democratic representatives serving on the India Caucus, including Khanna’s co-chair Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., Khanna is aiming to mobilize bipartisan support for safeguarding young adults who find themselves in this position.

Khanna held a town hall on Saturday, bringing awareness to Asian American and Pacific Islanders’ mental health in the wake of the deadly shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, California. Though the shooters in both cases were Asian men, Khanna said they amplified a mounting fear of simply existing in community spaces once considered safe.

With numerous high-profile acts of violence against Asians in the last few years, community members are feeling more “distant” from America than ever, he said.

“We had so much outreach to our office from constituents…people afraid, concerned, anxious about being Asian American in the United States,” he said. “These shootings, even though the perpetrator was Asian American, I think they triggered for so many in our community a sense of vulnerability.”

Khanna says taking on this greater role in the India Caucus feels like the culmination of generations of work in the public sphere. His grandfather Amarnath Vidyalankar spent his life fighting for India’s independence from British rule, even spending a few years in jail for the cause. Vidyalankar became a member of India’s first Parliament after independence in 1947.

Growing up with this knowledge has shaped Khanna’s strong beliefs in equality and religious freedom, he said, something he hopes to bring with him while chairing the caucus.  “Because of my grandfather, I was influenced by Gandhi’s thinking, by Nehru’s beautiful speeches about liberal democracy, about pluralism,” he said. “Those are the values I champion. … I’ve spoken out where I think those values are being challenged.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal among those honored at Kerala Center’s 25th annual awards gala

(Long Island, NY: November 5, 2017) Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, the first Indian American woman elected to the U.S Congress, representing Washington state’s seventh Congressional District, was among those honored at the 25th annual gala of the The Indian American Kerala Cultural and Civic Center at the World Fairs marina, Queens, New York on Saturday, November 4thg, 2017.

Rep. Jayapal of Kerala origin, a rising star in the Democratic Party, was honored for her achievements in Political Leadership. Attorney Appen Menon, a partner at Wormser, Kiely, Galef & Jacobs LLP law firm in New York for contribution in Legal Services; writer Dr. Sheela N.P. for Literature; Dr. A.K.B. Pillai for Humanities; Community volunteer Sheela Sreekumar for Community Service; and Ginsmon Zacharia, for achievement in Media, were others who were honored for their achievements in their respective field of specialization or for their service to the society at its 25th Anniversary Awards Banquet.

The Center also honored five of its pioneers with Silver Jubilee Year Life Time Achievement Awards. The 25th Jubilee Year Life Time Achievers are Shanti Bhavan Founder Dr. Abraham George, Industrialist and Founder & Chairman of Sami-Sabinsa Group Dr. Muhammed Majeed; Philanthropist Sreedhar Menon; Columbia University Professor P. Somasundaran and Entrepreneur Dilip Varghese. Also honored with a ‘surprise award” was E M Stephen, the pioneer and first President and the Center’s current Executive Director for his visionary and hard work in establishing and running the center in the past quarter century.

While lauding the contributions and achievements of the Malayalee community, chief guest at the gala, Consul General of India in New York Sandeep Chakravorty, “Kerala Diaspora has made India so proud. They are incredibly strong and enormous,” he said. Referring to the strong Indo-US relationship, the Indian Ambassador paid tributes to the larger Indian American community for their contributions towards making the relationship between the largest and the greatest democracies to be growing and poised to be stronger for the next 100 years.

In her address, Congresswoman Jayapal shared with the audience her own growing up in a traditional Kerala family, immigrating to the US as a student and the aspirations of the family. “My parents would be delighted to hear of this honor today at the Kerala Center,” she told the audience, referring to her family’s long association with Sreedhar Monon, a founding member and pillar of the Kerala Center.

Pointing to the fast growing Indian American community, the lone woman Representative from South Asia in the US Congress said, “There are many more coming forward to fight elections and making our voices heard” in the decision making process of our nation’s destiny, she said, while referring to at least 8 persons of South Asian origin contesting elections in her state in the upcoming elections this week. Urging the Indian American community to be more politically active, Jayapal said, “If you don’t vote, you are giving away your voice.”

While describing today as the “greatest day for Kerala Center” the Executive Director E.M. Stephen said that the Center had recognized 140 achievers in the last 25 years, who have continued to become bigger achievers and contributors to the society. He called upon the new generation of Indian Americans to come forward and take on more responsibilities at the Center and in the larger community and the society.

“Kerala Center has been honoring outstanding achievers since 1991 and every year we invite nominations and the committee has to make a unanimous choice for a candidate in a category to receive the award and this year is no different from previous years in terms of their achievements,” said Kerala Center President Thambi Thalappillil. “In 25 years, Kerala Center has become a secular civic institution providing services to the Indian American community and we are recognizing those who were honored earlier by the Center and who went on to become successful achievers and contributors to society with Life Time Achievement,” said Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman of the 25th Anniversary Dinner.

The gala began with the national anthems of both Indian and the Un ited states sung beautifully by the youth group members of the Kerala Center, and they entertained the audience with cinematic dances. The event concluded with light music entertainment and a sumptuous dinner.

Born in Chennai, India, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal is the first Indian American woman elected to the U.S House of Representatives. She is a Senior Whip for the Democratic Caucus, Vice Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, First Vice Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and she also serves on the prestigious House Judiciary Committee. Before getting elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Congresswoman Jayapal served in the Washington State Senate and was the founder and executive director of OneAmerica, the largest immigrant advocacy organization in Washington state.

Appen Menon is a partner at Wormser, Kiely, Galef& Jacobs LLP, a law firm in New York and has been providing legal service for the last 3 decades. He represents banks in problem loan workouts and litigation involving debt recovery and mortgage foreclosures and advises financial institutions in their compliance and regulatory matters and on Letters of Credit and secured lending. His corporate law practice includes domestic and foreign corporations in matters relating to domestic acquisitions, cross-border acquisitions involving India and the United States, while representing business entities in their corporate transactions, litigation and corporate governance. Menon also represents corporations in their professional visa matters such as H-1, L-1 and PERM. His clients include technology companies, banks and multinational corporations.

Dr. Sheela N.P. is an accomplished writer in numerous journals and periodicals. She has seven published works including a novel, for which she was the recipient of an international award. She began her teaching career at St. Xavier’s College, Aluva, where she served as the Head of Hindi Department for 35 years. She had also served as a visiting faculty in several seminaries for Malayalam and Sanskrit. She has a Ph.D. in comparative literature and elegy from Cochin University of Science and Technology. In addition, Sheela has post-graduate degrees in Hindi, English, Sanskrit and Malayalam and also diplomas in Theology and Christian women education.

Dr. A.K.B. Pillai is an integrated personality of wisdom, spirituality and creativity. He has higher levels of education in many disciplines, including an M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University in Anthropology, for which he held a Research Fellowship from the National Institute of Mental Health, USA. He continues as an Associate of University Seminars (post- doctoral) at Columbia University. His specializations include Comparative Literature with techniques of creative writing, other disciplines in the humanities and medical sciences. Dr. A.K.B. Pillai is a practitioner of his own Integral Development Therapy, Personality Development System and Developmental Transcultural Psychiatry, with resources also drawn from psychological and mystical Yoga sciences. Dr. Pillai’s lifelong dedicated philosophy is that all wisdom is for social well-being, which he practices with his spouse, Professor Donna Pillai. He is listed in many Who’s Whos of the world.

Sheela Sreekumar is involved in many local, national and global community organizations in the US and is working for the community around her. Born and brought up in Vayalar, Kerala, she attended N.S.S. Women’s College, Trivandrum and later completed her Law Degree from The Government Law College in Ernakulam. After coming to the US, she has served as the President of Karuna Charities of New York; the President and Board of Trusty Chair of Kerala Association of NJ; Advisor to World Malayalee Council of NJ; Chairperson of FOMAA’s Mid- Atlantic Region; Representative of D.C. 37, and also as the Secretary of Asian American Association at New York City Housing Authority. Currently Sheela works as a Community Coordinator of Resident Economic Empowerment and Sustainability Unit at the New York Housing Authority to help the residents for their job education and financial stability.

Hailing from Thodupuzha, Ginsmon Zacharia dedicated 17 years of his life to the news media. Currently he is coordinator of the Indo-American Press Club, an organization that he founded and chaired. His decision to choose print and visual media indeed served him right. He is also the Director of Jaihind TV USA, which made headlines hosting reality shows in all major North American cities. It served as a platform for young talents to be heard and seen and loved by the viewership of the channel. The weekly program US Dairy brought to the attention of the authorities the difficulties and problems the Indian immigrants face in the US. Having successfully started and established newspapers in UK and US with circulation in Canada, he strategized techniques to earn the reader’s trust. He is the publisher and chairman of Jaihind Vartha, Aksharam magazine and The Asia Era in the US. For more information on The Indian American Kerala Cultural and Civic Center and diverse activities and programs throughout the year, please visit:

Pramila Jayapal on way to win Congressional seat from Washington state

Pramila Jayapal, the Chennai-born Democrat, who was endorsed by Sanders, running from Washington’s 7th district, is all set be elected to the US Congress, reports suggest. Armed with the notion that corporate special interests and anti-immigrant hysteria have sunk their talons far too deeply into the overarching body of American politics, Indian American Pramila Jayapal, 50, has set out to add her boldly progressive voice to Capitol Hill as a congressional representative from Washington state.

Jayapal — who emigrated from India as a teenager — is running for Congress from Washington’s 7th district in order to succeed incumbent Jim McDermott. The district, which includes most of Seattle, is considered to be one of the most reliably Democratic localities in the nation.

Jayapal, who originally hails from Chennai, is engaged in a primary battle with four others, including fellow Indian American Arun Jhaveri, who formerly served as the mayor of Burien, Washington.

After observing the hypocrisy and skewed nature of Wall Street first hand during the 1980s, Jayapal has spent the past 25 years advocating for both the middle class and immigrants across the United States. She now hopes she can bring that very same impetus to the House of Representatives if elected in November.

An adamant proponent of the American Dream, Jayapal recently spoke with the American Bazaar about her plan to keep the ethos alive for future generations of Americans regardless of race, creed, or socioeconomic status.

Jayapal, who is a strong supporter of Immigration reform, reminds of her work “for 15 years and I don’t think there’s anyone in the state who knows the policy and the politics of immigration reform better than I do, so that’s certainly a big thing.” Recalling that she came to the United States “when I was 16, my parents took all the money they had — about $5,000 — and put it into sending me here so that I could get what they thought would be the best education. I think the opportunity to have that and in a way, to live my version of the American Dream, has made me that much more committed to making sure that other people get their American Dream.”

“I started OneAmerica, formerly known as Hate Free Zone, right after 9/11 and it initially dealt with hate crimes against Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians, but within two weeks of that post-9/11 backlash was that we were fighting the U.S. government. It was the time of President George Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft; they were detaining and deporting people simply for being Arab or Muslim. I felt I had to speak out about things going on that were completely wrong and antithetical to the American values that I had just sworn to as I had just become a U.S. citizen in 2000.”

Jayapal understands the need to contain the cost of higher-education, which has become a flashpoint for many post-grads who now find themselves stricken with unsustainable debt. “I would like to introduce a bill here in the state that would provide tuition-free college. I started here in the state with free community college just because our community college system is so accessible to so many people across the state as opposed to our four-year institutions. If we could increase transfer rates from two-year colleges to four-year colleges, I think that would be tremendous. I’d be looking to do something similar in the U.S. Congress for all institutions of higher education.”

A believer in clean energy, Jayapal is of the belief that it’s a great opportunity to invest in green jobs — to use the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy as the opportunity to actually invest in a whole new infrastructure, and that’s both jobs and the environment together. “To me, that seems like the smart thing to do.”
Pramila has major endorsements from every sector, such as 21 sitting members of Congress including Ami Bera and Keith Ellison; every major women’s group like NARAL, EMILY’s List, Planned Parenthood; every labor union that has endorsed in her race (over 50 now including the state’s labor council, AFL-CIO); the list goes on.

Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman of GOPIO, told this writer, “I want to tell you about a dynamic Indian American who is Washington State Senator Pramila Jayapal. I had known Pramila since she was running for the State Senate in 2014. She has been a community activist since 2001 who has campaigned for civil rights and served as the executive director of OneAmerica, a pro-immigration advocacy group.”

According to Abraham, Pramila, a strong progressive immigrant woman, who won her nine-way primary with 42% of the vote and is well on her way to being the first Indian American woman elected to Congress, is being attacked by her opponent – a fellow Democrat. We need to make sure that Pramila gets to Congress, and we must rally to raise the $250,000 she needs by November 1st, so she can call her opponent out on his negativity and keep her message from getting drowned out by his attacks. Let us support Pramila to become First Indian American Women Congresswoman.”