Congressman Tom Suozzi's presence at the India Day Parade in Queens, organized by the Floral Park-Bellerose Merchant’s Association on Hillside Avenue yesterday (Sunday) has created a flutter over his controversial letter to President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Kashmir and revocation of Article 370.
Rep. Suozzi’s letter dated August 9 alleged that the action by the Indian government ‘risks provoking mass social unrest...These new restrictions on the autonomy of the state and the rights of Kashmiris could also embolden extremists and terrorists to act.’
The letter ends asking Pompeo ‘to let me know as soon as possible what actions our government intends to take and please advise if l may be of any assistance.’
Re. Suozzi, 56, represents the 3rd Congressional District of New York, where a large number of Indian Americans reside. They not only supported his campaigns and voted for him but raised substantial amount of money too during election time.
After the news of the letter became public, the Indian community flooded his office with calls protesting his stand.
Following the protests, Suozzi convened a meeting with representatives of the Indian American community on Sunday.
“The community wanted him to apologies and withdraw the letter,” Rajendar Dichappally, a leader of the Indian Overseas Congress said.
“We expected a favorable response. But, he invited Pakistanis and Kashmiris too for the meeting. There was shouting and arguments at the meeting among the participants. In such a situation, Suozzi said he would make things clear in a couple of days,” Dichappally said.
Suozzi came to the parade immediately after the meeting. As a guest of honor, he said India-US relations are valuable and will continue to have the good relations for the next 50 years.
Dichapplly shouted at Suozzi, who was standing at the podium, after the short speech, and demanded to apologize to the American Indian Community at the Parade and immediately withdraw the letter.
Soon Suozzi left the podium and asked Dichappally if they could speak in private. Dichapplly disagreed. A visibly angry Suozzi left the event without further comments.
Dichappally questioned the organizers for keeping their invitation to Suozzi even after his comments. “They should have withdrawn the invitation unless he had apologized for his action,” he said.
Asked about the stand of the Congress Party, especially the IOC about the revocation of Article 370, Dichappally said, “The Congress Party does not agree with the way the decision was taken by the Modi Government. They should have consulted the Opposition and created a consensus on the matter. This can be compared to the demonetization, an ill-conceived move.
‘But it has created a national crisis and it is our duty to stand united in a crisis. The writings of Chidambaram, Tharoor etc clearly tell it.” He said.
‘We Indian Americans are very upset with Congressman Suozzi. We are demanding that he withdraws his letter written to Secretary Pompeo. Kashmir is an integral part of India and it is India's internal matter. He or the US has no right to interfere in India's internal affair,’ Jagdish Sewhani, President of the American India Public Affairs Committee, said earlier.
Subash Kapadia of the Merchant’s Association too spoke about the revocation of Article 370. He said it was a brave act which was a dream of Sardar Patel, Ambedkar and Symaprasad Mookerjee. (Pandits point out that Sardar Patel drafted the article and Ambedkar supported it.) Many in the audience disagreed with making political comments at an event celebrating the unity of the country.
George Abraham, vice chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress, USA too criticized the politicization of the event. “For the Indian Overseas Congress, USA, it was indeed a pleasure to take part in the India Day parade in Queens, New York to celebrate India’s 73rd Independence Day. However, the organizers on the stage refused to acknowledge the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi or the architect of modern India, Jawaharlal Nehru. For the leaders of this parade, this was another occasion to sing praise of Modi for the abrogation of article 370 on Kashmir, a controversial action that has divided the Indian Community.
“The Queensboro, which is home to a large number of Indians and others who believe in pluralism and fair application of law and justice may not agree with what has been transpiring in Kashmir right now which they see as undermining democracy and polarizing communities. This is the same sad state of affairs that goes on and on: the silent majority is too silent and always been upstaged by a group of people from one region in India using their money power to promote their vested agenda! Unless people wake up from their slumber and start defending freedom and democracy in India now, it may be too late!”
Abraham also stated the official position of Congress about revocation of Article 370, ‘As far as the article 370 is concerned, this is where the Congress stands on the issue: What the BJP Government has accomplished in the Rajya Sabha and in the Lok Sabha has grave implications going well beyond J&K and calls into question the very idea of India being a Union of States. Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India as one state and no government has the power to change its status or divide it or reduce any part of it to a union territory'.
‘The Indian national Congress pledges to stand with the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and to fight the BJP and its divisive and diabolical agenda with every power in its hands. We urge the people of J&K to maintain peace and calm.’
Several people disagreed with the manner of questioning a stand taken by a US Congressman, just because a community supported him with money and votes. They also disagreed to the idea that America cannot involve in the affairs of other countries in any situation.
Attorney and noted community leader Ravi Batra sent the following comment via email:
Heard the meeting was not what it was expected to be. At the end, Tom gave out Toy-Lollipops to all Attendees. Serious.
When Tom called me and asked for help to dig out from his letter-mistake, as a friend for over 20 years watching his star do a rollercoaster, I told him he ‘must send a new letter to Secretary Pompeo that only supports America’s ‘best interests’ - of being a friend of the Sub-Continent (all of it) and support it finally to be terror-free (be it cross-border or fermented domestically) with the result of enhanced peace and security for all. After 9/11, that’s an easy policy to grasp and support for every American.
As I’m in beautiful