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Trump celebrates Diwali, leaves out Hindus in tweet

Last updated on: November 14, 2018 21:33 IST

United States President Donald Trump celebrated Diwali at a White House ceremony but surprisingly omitted mentioning Hindus -- the largest community in the world that celebrate the festival of lights -- in his tweets, drawing severe criticism from netizens forcing him to redo his tweet.

IMAGE: US President Donald Trump participates in the Diwali ceremonial lighting of the Diya as India’s Ambassador to the US Navtej Sarna looks on in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Trump hosted Diwali celebrations in the historic Roosevelt Room of the White House which was attended by prominent Indian-Americans, Indian-origin administration and diplomatic officials.

Diwali was celebrated across the world on November 7.

 

In his first tweet, he forgot to greet the Hindus.

'Today, we gathered for Diwali, a holiday observed by Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains throughout the United States & around the world. Hundreds of millions of people have gathered with family & friends to light the Diya and to mark the beginning of a New Year,' Trump said in a tweet as he posted along with a YouTube link of the White House event.

The alert netizens were quick in identifying that he missed greeting the ‘Hindus’.

'It is a major Hindu holiday,' CNN’s Congressional correspondent Manu Raju said in a tweet. Trump soon deleted his first tweet, and replaced it with another one.

'Today, we gathered for Diwali, a holiday observed by Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains throughout the United States & around the world. Hundreds of millions of people have gathered with family & friends to light the Diya and to mark the beginning of a New Year,' Trump said in his second tweet which again missed mentioning the Hindus.

'So after initially not including Hindus in his first Diwali tweet, Trump deletes that tweet and re-posts another message. And still leaves out Hindus...,' Raju said, as he was joined by several others on the social media.

Soon, the President deleted his second tweet and came up with the third one.

'It was my great honour to host a celebration of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, in the Roosevelt Room at the @WhiteHouse this afternoon. Very, very special people!' Trump said in his third tweet.

The White House did not respond to questions on the series of tweets by the president and the criticism that he did not mention the Hindus in his tweets.

'President Trump leaves out Hindus in Diwali tweets,' Time magazine said in an article.

Trump had also mentioned Hindus in his November 7 Diwali greetings.

'Known as the Festival of lights, Diwali is a joyous and spiritual time marked by many Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists,' the US president had said in his Diwali greetings last week.

Trump said US' relationship with India can act as a ‘bulwark’ for freedom, prosperity and peace.

It is the second consecutive year that President Trump has celebrated the largest festival of India and Indian Americans in the White House.

"I am thrilled to be here for the celebration of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, and I am honored to host this beautiful ceremony at the White House. Very, very special people," Trump said.

"This ceremony signifies the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. It is a jubilant occasion that brings loved ones, neighbours, and communities closer together," Trump said before lighting the ceremonial diya in the historic Roosevelt Room of the White House.

He said the shining lights remind people to ‘seek wisdom, to give thanks, and to always cherish and love the ones who grace our lives’.

"Our nation is blessed to be home to millions of hardworking citizens of Indian and South East Asian heritage to enrich our country in countless ways. Together we are one proud American family. Do we agree with that? I think so. I think we do. Right? Better, believe it," he said.

"India is the world's largest democracy, and the relationship between our two countries can act as a bulwark for freedom, prosperity, and peace," Trump said, amidst China flexing its military muscles in the strategic Indo-Pacific region.

He said the United States has deep ties with India and he was grateful for his friendship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"Modi is my friend and now her (Ivanka) friend and has great respect for India and the Indian people that I can say," said the US President as he introduced his daughter to the audience, who was present in the room.

"Absolutely," replied Ivanka, who had visited India last year.

She was the first top official of the Trump administration to travel to India to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad in November last year.

Trump also mentioned the ongoing negotiations between the US and India on a trade deal but indicated that the talks were moving though it was tough.

"We're trying very hard to make better trade deals with India. But, they're very good traders. They're very good negotiators. You would say right. The best. So we're working. And it's moving along," he said.

Along with nearly two dozen top Indian-American officials of his administration, Trump invited the Indian Ambassador to the US, Navtej Singh Sarna, his wife Dr Avina Sarna, and his special assistant Pratik Mathur to be present during the White House Diwali celebrations.

Sarna in his remarks thanked the President for the great honour for India and the Indian community.

"They feel very welcome here and so integrated with the American society," he said. "I think, we are looking at one of the best times we ever had in India-US relationship," Sarna said, which was agreed by Trump.

"I think, that's true. Very close, closer than ever before," said the President. In his remarks, Trump also welcomed senior Indian-American officials gathered for the Diwali celebrations.

Trump said Americans of Indian and South East Asian heritage have done an incredible job and identified several of them by name, including the chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai; Manisha Singh, Acting Under Secretary of the Department of State; Seema Verma, Administrator of the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services; Uttam Dhillon, Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration; Neil Chatterjee, Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Raj Shah, the Deputy White House Press Secretary.

The first White House Diwali celebration was held in 2003 under the then US President George W Bush, who never attended the celebrations in person.

Since 2003, Diwali celebrations at the White House has become an annual tradition.

In 2009, President Barack Obama lighted the ceremonial lamp in the East Room of the White House.

In 2013, First Lady Michelle Obama celebrated Diwali in the East Room.

Immediately before the celebrations, she participated in a Bollywood dance with local students in the State Dining Room.

In 2016, Obama celebrated Diwali in the Oval Office with a group of Indian Americans officials from his administration.

In 2016, Vice President Joe Biden hosted a Diwali reception at his official residence Number One Observatory Circle.

In 2017, President Trump celebrated his first Diwali in the Oval Office with Ambassador Nikki Haley, senior officials from his administration and a small group of Indian- Americans.

Over the years, it is being celebrated by the Indian-Americans in Pentagon and the State Department.

For the past several years, Diwali is also being celebrated at the US Capitol by lawmakers, being hosted by the India Caucus.

Lalit K Jha
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