Bust of first Indian-American Congressman shines in India

May 7th, 2008 - 6:21 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, May 7 (IANS) The American dream is alive and shining. A bust of Dalip Singh Saund, the first Indian-American elected to the House of Representatives, now adorns the American Center library in the heart of the Indian capital. The bust of Saund, an iconic figure for Indian and Asian immigrants to the US, was installed in the American Center library Wednesday to inspire all those who continue to look at the US as a land of opportunity.

Describing Saund as “a great Indian who became a great American,” Steven White, deputy chief of the US mission here, said the bust of Saund “reflects a special relationship between India and the US.”

The bust was unveiled Tuesday evening at an elegant ceremony at the American Center by former prime minister I.K. Gujral.

“Saund was an outstanding personality who built bridges of understanding between the two democracies. This will remind us all how close our two democracies are and how close we can be,” said Gujral.

Sports Minister M.S. Gill, who was also present at the function, lauded Saund as “a fine example of India, America and Punjab” who became the first Asian American to be elected to the US House of Representatives.

Gill also recalled a favourite saying of Saund that sums up the indomitable spirit of the man. “There is no room in the US for second class citizens,” Saund was fond of saying.

Saund was a member of the US House of Representatives from the state of California from January 3, 1957, to January 3, 1963. He became the first Indian-American and Sikh member of the US Congress.

Saund became a role model for thousands of Indians, specially Sikhs, smitten by the Great American dream.

India’s first prime minister Jawahalal Nehru recognised Saund’s charisma and stature when he invited him to address the joint session of parliament in 1958 - an honour usually accorded to visiting heads of state and government.

In November last year, Saund’s portrait was unveiled in the US Capitol in Washington.

Born in 1899 in a village near Amritsar in Punjab, he migrated to the US in 1920. He soon acquired a doctorate in maths from the university of California. However, due to restrictive laws at the time, he could not find a teaching job.

An incorrigible optimist, Saund turned to farming and prospered. Saund was elected to judgeship in 1950 and 1952. Defying formidable odds, he won his first congressional election in 1956 as a Democrat in California district, traditionally considered a bastion of neo-conservative Republicans.

Saund is seen as something of a pioneer who paved the way for Indian immigration to the US.

“Congressman Saund paved the way for the success of thousands of Indians in America who are prospering in whatever they do,” said White. “Two million Indian Americans are the most affluent immigrant group in the US,” he said.

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