New York City Council Names Streets Recognizing Contributions Of South Asians

New York City Council passed a resolution renaming some 129 thoroughfares and public places Feb. 2, 2023. Among them is the historic renaming in Queens for at least three streets recognizing the contributions of South Asian communities including Sikhs, Bengalis, and Caribbean Americans.

Indian-American leaders of the Sikh community had been lobbying for ‘Guru Nanak Way’ for at least a year, according to community activist and Co Founder & President of South Asians for Global Empowerment, Harpreet Singh Toor. Toor told Desi Talk he worked along with other activists like Rajwinder Kaur to make the co-naming a reality. The ceremony for formalizing the co-naming will take place at a future date.

“Congratulations to all the world community in general and Punjabi and Sikh Community in particular for successfully getting the Street in front of the Sikh Cultural Society co-named as Guru Nanak Way,” Toor said in an email he sent out. Toor is a former president and chairman of the Sikh Cultural Society of Richmond Hill.

The sign will be installed on the North East corner of Punjab Ave/101st Ave in South Richmond Hill, Toor said. “First Punjab Ave, then Gurdwara Street and now Guru Nanak Way,” Toor rejoiced.

The resolution, Int 0897-2023, had 41 co-sponsors, and included at least 3 roads named for the South Asian community. Apart from Guru Nanak Way, there is also the Trinidad and Tobago Street and the Little Bangladesh Way, all three in the Borough of Queens.

An excerpt from the resolution reads as follows – A Local Law in relation to the naming of 129 thoroughfares and public places, Allama Iqbal Avenue, Borough of Queens, Cecelia Owens Cox Way, Borough of Queens, Clifford Glover Road, Borough of Queens, Guru Nanak Way, Borough of Queens, Carmichael Way, Borough of Queens, S.W.A.M. Way, Borough of Queens, Trinidad and Tobago Street, Borough of Queens, Rafael “Monkey” Delgado Way, Borough of Manhattan, Agripina N??ez Way, Borough of Manhattan, Tom Demott Way, Borough of Manhattan, Valentina’s Way, Borough of Queens, Joseph “JoJo” DeToma, Jr. Way, Borough of Queens, Timothy Klein Way, Borough of Queens, Little Bangladesh Way, Borough of Queens. …

“My Special thanks to NYC Council Speaker, Adrienne Adams who got the ball rolling for getting this done,” Toor said, adding, “My thanks to Community Board 9 for unanimously voting to approve under the leadership of Chair Sherry Algredo and Faiuze Ali, Transportation Chair for writing a very good resolution endorsing the Street co- naming.”

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.”

TheUNN WhatsApp Group

Join and follow our WhatsApp group for daily news and updates. It's completely free!

-+=