Last week, the Hindu American Foundation submitted written testimony to the New York City Council in support of Resolution 146, which calls “upon the New York City Department of Education to establish Diwali as an official holiday for New York City public school students.”

There are approximately 100,000 students of the Dharmic faiths (Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and Buddhist) currently studying in New York City public schools.

HAF Managing Director Sheetal Shah joined dozens of community leaders and activists on the steps of New York City Hall last week to urge Mayor Bill de Blasio to work with the community and designate Diwali as an official public school holiday.

“It’s time for New York City to finally recognize Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists, alongside other faiths, who aren’t forced to choose between attending school or celebrating their religious holiday,” Shah said. “It’s great to be a part of a broader, local coalition.”

Diwali, is a five-day festival that begins on the 15th day of the Hindu month of Kartik (October/November). It is the most important festival on the Hindu calendar, celebrating the triumph of good over evil and marking the New Year.

Hindus celebrate Diwali as the victory of good over evil and of knowledge over ignorance. Sikhs celebrate Diwali as the Day of Liberation, when the sixth Sikh Guru, Hargobind, was released from imprisonment along with 52 other kings. Jains commemorate Diwali as the day Lord Mahavira, the last of the Tirthankaras, attained Nirvana, or liberation.

“We assembled on the steps of City Hall as one, larger South Asian Community to speak out in one voice,” stated Dr. Neeta Jain, Founder and President of International Ahimsa Foundation. “By doing so, New York City will give our children the same respect as their peers without fear of discrimination, without hurting their self respect,” she said.

The Hindu American Foundation has launched an email campaign, available on HAF’s Advocacy Center, making it easy for New York City residents to write directly to Mayor Bill de Blasio urging him to call on the New York City Department of Education to establish Diwali as an official holiday.

Download: HAF Diwali Toolkit