On Thursday, December 3, the US House of Representatives adopted H.R.5517, the Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative Act, by voice vote. Introduced by the late American civil rights leader Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), H.R.5517 passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee on July 29, 2020, twelve days after Lewis’ passing.
H.R.5517 creates an annual educational forum held in the US and India that focuses on the social justice, civil and human rights legacies of Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; creates a student exchange program for students in the U.S. and India at all academic levels; establishes a professional development training program called the Gandhi-King Global Academy within the US Institute of Peace (USIP); and establishes the US-India Gandhi-King Development Foundation within the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which would provide grants to private nongovernmental entities to address critical humanitarian, environmental, and development issues in India.
“The Hindu American Foundation greatly admires Congressman John Lewis’ life’s work and his dedication to strengthening American civil rights and expanding liberty,” stated HAF Executive Director Suhag Shukla, Esq. “It is a fitting tribute that his bill institutionalizing the legacy and teachings of both Gandhi and Dr. King would pass in the 116th Congress and is on its way to becoming law,” Shukla said.
The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) has directly advocated for H.R.5517 since introduction and launched a grassroots campaign for Hindu Americans and all civil rights activists to take action in support of the bill. H.R. 5517 was also a priority bill during meetings HAF held with Members of Congress as part of HAF’s 2020 Virtual Advocacy Forum in September, 2020.
On the House floor Thursday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) moved to “suspend the rules” and pass the bill as amended, a process used to call for a vote on non-controversial bills that enjoy broad bipartisan support as it requires a two-thirds affirmative vote for adoption.
The bill now goes to the US Senate where it awaits consideration. The Senate will reconvene on Monday, December 7, for what is expected to be its final week of session before adjourning for the year.
“We urge the Senate to swiftly take up HR 5517 and in so doing, codify the legacies of iconic non-violence leaders Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Congressman John Lewis,” stated Shukla.