The Hindu American Foundation said it raised $300,000 at its annu- al fundraising gala, held at the India
Community Center in Milpitas, California,
“Over 600 people were in attendance.
This was the highest turnout we’ve ever had
at any HAF event anywhere in the country,”
Samir Kalra, director and senior fellow for
human rights, HAF, told India Abroad.
“Hindu Americans are realizing that they
need to have a voice and a professional
organization to represent their views, and
that’s why so many people are supporting
HAF’s work and attending our events,” he
Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri, the
keynote speaker at the event, spoke about
her personal spiritual journey and identity
as a Hindu American.
‘This is humbling because this is my first
appearance as former Miss America,’ said
Davuluri, whose reign ended last month.
She said the first word that came out of her
mouth when she was being crowned was,
‘Thank you Swami.’
She talked about growing up ‘different’ as
the only Indian in class, and said her fami-
ly members are followers of Sai Baba
‘When all my friends were going to
church on Wednesday or Sunday, I felt left
out,’ she said. ‘And it was not until college,
where I was really able to network and was
involved with the Hindu Students Council
at the University of Michigan, I felt wow it’s
a safe place, where I can be myself and real-
ly talk about the same values we are all
raised with. And that
is something I found
very special… But the
one thing that
changed my mind,
was when I was in
junior year in college
and visited India to
meet my grandpar-
On that trip, on a
visit to Tirupati, she
was volunteering at
food. There was a
young girl, who came
over and gave
Davuluri back the
bread she had given
the girl minutes ago.
‘She literally offered
me the only thing she
had, and that was an
act of pure love,’ Davuluri said. ‘Since then,
I knew the purpose of my journey was to
Pandit Lathi, who came with his family
members, said they have been longtime
supporters of HAF.
“I started donating six years ago with
$250, and then $500, and today (I gave)
$7,500,” Lathi said. “I think their cause is
Bhagawandas Lathi, who came to the US
in 1955, said, “I think is the only organization which is doing something for the
Hindu community, which needs to be done
Kalra spoke at the gala about inaccura-cies and misrepresentations about
Hinduism and India in American textbooks and the negative impact this has on
young children. He shared how HAF
worked hard in trying to correct these
stereotypes through Senate Bill 1057.
‘This effort was the first time that any
Hindu-American organization successfully
sponsored a bill that passed any legislature
throughout the country, although unfortunately the (California) governor vetoed the
bill last week,’ said Kalra.
He said HAF has grown tremendously
from a small, all-volunteer organization
founded by second-generation Hindu
Americans into the premier advocacy
group for Hindus across the country and
staffed by full-time professionals.
‘We’ve grown from merely introducing
symbolic resolutions to working on legislation at both the national and state level
here in California that seeks to bring about
real change,’ Kalra said.
He cited as another accomplishment
HAF’s work to stop US House Resolution
417 in Congress, which he said was an anti-India and anti-Hindu bill that sought to
inaccurately portray India’s religious freedom.
California Senator Majority Leader Ellen
Corbett was honored with HAF’s 2014
Friend of the Community Award for spearheading Senate Bill 1057.
Iftekhar Hai, president, United Muslims
of America Interfaith Alliance, was honored with HAF’s Mahatma Gandhi Award
for the Advancement of Religious
Pluralism, as were Girish Shah, co-founder,
Jain Center of Northern California, and
Mervyn Danker, regional director,
American Jewish Committee, San
“HAF wants to correct the wrong ideas
that create disunity,” Hai told India
Abroad. “It’s my moral duty to stand with
anybody who is not represented correctly.”
More than 400 people attended the 17th annual fundraising gala hosted by the Aligarh Muslim
University Alumni Association of Northern California at
the India Community Center in Milpitas, California,
Established in 1996, the association aims to help
underprivileged Muslim families in India.
“Our fundraising goal for 2014 is $100,000 for the
AEEF (Aligarh Education Endowment Fund),” Shaheer
Khan, co-founder of the association, told India Abroad.
“The annual gala covered 70 percent of the target. We
are an organization who believe in modern education
that Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, founder of the Aligarh
Muslim University, dreamt for Indian Muslims. So they
can focus not just on the religious education but study
science, technology and engineering,” Khan said.
Shachindra Nath, president of the association, said at
AMU “not only do we learn academic values but also
learn values like tolerance and respect for every religion.
I am very grateful to my dad that he sent me to AMU; I
think it’s the best gift ever given to me.”
The keynote speaker for the evening was Islam A
Siddiqui, former chief agricultural negotiator in the office
of the United States Trade Repre-
Ambassador Siddiqui said he,
his family, even his children, are
involved in raising funds for
AMU’s cause of education.
Asked what his expectations
are from the Narendra Modi
government vis-à-vis minorities
in India, Siddiqui told India
Abroad, “I hope the current gov-
ernment will continue the poli-
cies of the previous government,
when former prime minister
Manmohan Singh had a Sachar
Committee which reviewed the
education and economic status
of Muslims in India and found they are lagging behind…”
“If India wants to be part of the regional global powers
you cannot have one segment of the Indian population,
namely the Muslims in India, lagging behind. Prime
Minister Modi says he wants to be the prime minister for
all Indians. I am taking his word on face value — that he
will continue to look after the minority community and
hopefully continue the policy of the previous government
too, when it comes to educa-
tion and economic uplift of
Muslims in India.”
He cited statistics that only 4
percent of Indian Muslims are
college degree holders.
“The people who get rich and
well educated, they don’t need
government support, but people who are less fortunate, if
you don’t look after them, they
will be a drag on this society,”
Madrassas, he said, must
teach students the subjects
that will equip them for the
modern world and not just
give religious education. Sir Syed wanted that, Siddiqui
said, and for this he was opposed by some orthodox
“We, Indian Diaspora of the Muslim faith, need to send
the same message (as Sir Syed),” he said.
A highlight of the gala was a mushaira (poets’ meet),
where poets from both India and Pakistan participated
along with local poets.
‘Hindu Americans are realizing
that they need to have a voice’
Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri at the HAF gala in Milipitas, California.
Over 600 people attended the event.
Islam A Siddiqui
‘You cannot have Muslims in India lagging behind’