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New York announces holiday on Diwali in schools

Diwali, the festival of lights, will now be cherished as a school holiday in New York City, the authorities announced and described it as a “victory” for the city’s residents, including the Indian community.

Eric Adams, the New York City Mayor said he was proud that the State Assembly and the State Senate have passed the bill making Diwali a New York City Public School holiday.

Adams said, “And we feel confident that the governor is going to sign this bill into law,” at a special announcement from City Hall Monday.

“This is a victory, not only from the men and women of the Indian community and all communities that celebrate Diwali, but it’s a victory for New York,” he said.

Diwali will be a public school holiday in New York City beginning this year.

Jenifer Rajkumar, the New York Assembly Member and the first Indian-American woman ever elected to a New York State office, said for over two decades, the South Asian and Indo-Caribbean community has fought for this moment.

Jenifer on the Diwali holiday

She said, “Today, the mayor and I are proud to stand before the whole world and say that from now on and forever, Diwali will be a school holiday in New York City.”

Rajkumar said the Diwali holiday is to be enshrined in law.

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“Diwali, at last, will be a holiday in our great city. So today we say to over 6,00,000 Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, and Jain Americans across New York City, we see you. Today, we say to families from India, Guyana, Trinidad, Nepal, and Bangladesh, we recognise you,” she added.

“Today, we proudly say that Diwali is not just a holiday. It is an American holiday, and the South Asian community is part of the American story. Indeed, Hindu, Sikhs, and Buddhists have an important place in the civil rights tradition of America. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. himself once said that India’s Gandhi was the guiding light of his movement of non-violent social change in the Montgomery bus boycotts,” said Jenifer.

Joined by community and diaspora leaders as well as city officials and lawmakers, Adams said New York city is continuously changing and welcoming communities from all over the world.

“Our school calendar must reflect the new reality on the ground. It cannot reflect the absence of those who are not being acknowledged,” he said.

Congresswoman Grace Meng, First Vice Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said, “We have been pushing for this school holiday to happen, and I cannot be happier that now we are on the cusp of our efforts becoming a reality. The time has come for our school system to acknowledge and appreciate this important observance, just as it rightly does for holidays of other cultures and ethnicities.”

Meng said adding Diwali to the school calendar will further reflect the rich and vibrant diversity that exists in the city and hoped that it will “pave the way for other cities across the country as well”.

She said establishing a federal holiday for Diwali is not just about a day off for kids. “But it’s a chance for all students and New Yorkers of all backgrounds to better understand the culture and the diversity and the inclusivity of this city and including holidays like Diwali.”

Last month, Meng introduced a bill in Congress to make Diwali a federal holiday. Under the Diwali Day Act, Diwali would become the 12th federally recognised holiday in the United States.

David Banks, the New York City Schools Chancellor said declaring a Diwali holiday for school children all across this city is “less about the fact that schools will be closed in recognition of Diwali, but more about the fact that minds will be opened because of what we are going to teach them about the festival and about history”.

“I’m happy for all the children and the families and the communities around New York City who are going to learn more about the depth and the heritage and the history of this community,” Banks said.

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