Washington, DC (August 16, 2018) — Leaders of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) condoled the passing of former Indian Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who died at the age of 93 from health complications in New Delhi. Dr. Rajiv Pandit, HAF Board member based in Dallas, TX, offered these remarks in tribute:

I was blessed to have met Shri Vajpayee in the early 1990s during his visit to the U.S. before he became Prime Minister of India. I distinctly recall that he was the first elected official I had ever met who came off very confident, but humble. I also remember that he was able to inspire the room with his poetry, which I thought was quite unique for an elected official.

He genuinely believed that service to humanity was service to God. But the most impactful takeaway is that it was the first time I was ever given the public space to be proud to be a Hindu, to feel confident about it, and to use that confidence and our values to serve the community. I never quite felt that open to be Hindu in public before. I later found out that those same traits is what led him to become the first world leader to address the United Nations General Assembly in his native language of Hindi.

I owe my comfort with expressing my Hindu identity in a free, open manner to Shri Vajpayee. I am also extremely grateful that as prime minister of India, he boldly protected my homeland of Kashmir, when it was attacked by Pakistan in 1999 during the Kargil War.