In the early parts of the 20th century Indians were treated as nationals of a “slave” country. In 1913, they formed Hindustan Association of the Pacific Coast – a body of volunteers – under the guidance of Har Dyal, who had held a faculty position at Stanford University, with an objective to liberate India with the force of arms from British colonialism.
The all-volunteers Hindustan Association, later on, became known as Gadar Party, after the name of the association publication Gadar. The influence of this body was so powerful that when called upon, over 6000 overseas Indians volunteered to return to India to fight for India’s freedom. The movement did not attain its declared objective but many volunteer members went to jail and made sacrifices for the cause of freedom, dignity and honor of their motherland, India.
Indian community activists for many years struggled to get U.S. citizenship rights which granted several privileges. Some US courts had given citizenship to Caucasian immigrants. A few Indians, claiming to be Caucasians, applied for citizenship and were granted that privilege in different states. The Immigration Department challenged the grant of citizenship to Bhagat Singh Thind. The US Supreme Court decided that Thind and other Indians were not eligible for US citizenship. The Immigration Department revoked citizenship of Thind and other Indian nationals who had been granted US citizenship privileges. J. J. Singh, Dr. Anup Singh, Dalip Singh Saund, Syud Hossain, Krishanalal Shridharani, Haridas Muzumdar, Mubarak Ali Khan, Taraknath Das, and a few other community activists relentlessly lobbied for several years with the members of US Congress for citizenship rights. In 1946, Congress passed a bill granting right of citizenship to the nationals of India – a great triumph for the Indian community leadership. These voluntary Indian community activists provided dedicated and committed service for many years to gain civil rights for Indians in the US. The generation of Indians who have come to the United States since 1946, owe a substantial debt of gratitude to these volunteer leaders for obtaining citizenship rights and other privileges which the immigrants enjoy on
In 1965, the US Congress passed a law to liberalize immigration to the United States. The new law opened a floodgate of immigrants from India and brought thousands of professionals in search of educational and employment opportunities. With the increase in population of Indian immigrants, cultural, religious and regional organizations mushroomed at a rapid speed to serve the needs of the new immigrants. In large cities, regional umbrella groups such as Federation of Indian American Associations (FIA) were formed, predominantly to celebrate India Independence day, India Republic day, and similar other events which volunteers of these associations
During the 1980s, there were immigration reform bills proposing drastic reduction in the quota for family reunification. There were three dominant country-wide advocacy groups, namely, National Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA), Indian American Forum for Political Education (IAFPE) and Association of Indians in America(AIA), which promoted the interests and aspirations of the people of Indian origin and opposed any reduction in the family reunification quota. After a long struggle, the US Congress yielded and kept the family reunification numbers intact in the new bill which was enacted into law. A few more advocacy, professional and civic organizations have also been formed by the new generation of volunteers at local, regional and national level.
—To be continued