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US building to be named after Dalip Singh Saund

February 02, 2005 20:14 IST

The US House of Representatives has overwhelmingly voted in favor of naming a Federal Building after Dalip Singh Saund, the first Congressman of Indian origin.

If, as expected, the US Senate endorses the move and President George W Bush signs the House Resolution HR 120 into law, the US Postal Service facility located at 30777 Rancho California Road in Temecula, California, will become known as the "Dalip Singh Saund Post Office Building."

The House unanimously voted 410-0 on February 1 to honor the late Saund, the former Riverside and Imperial County Congressman by naming this particular US Post Office after him.

Representative Joe Crowley, New York Democrat and former co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans has been crusading for the past two years to honor Saund's memory, but his efforts to have a building or hall on Capitol Hill or even a small federal institution in Washington,DC named after Saund bore no fruit.

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After failing to convince Representative Bob Filner, a Democrat, who represents California's 51st District, to help him, Crowley finally approached Representative Darrel E Issa, a Republican, who represents California's 49th District.

Issa agreed with Crowley's contention that it is imperative to honor the first and only Indian American Congressman for nearly 50 years, and introduced House Resolution 120 to name a post office in his district after Saund.

Pointing out that upon taking his oath of office in 1957, Saund became the first Indian American and first Asian American to serve in the US House of Representatives, Issa declared, "The 'Dalip Singh Saund Post Office Building' will honor an American who followed his dream to the United States, broke barriers, and served as a representative of the people."

"This Act of Congress will preserve Congressman Saund's legacy and honors the success of all immigrants from India and their accomplishments," he said.

Piyush "Bobby" Jindal, who only last November became the second Indian American ever to be elected to the US Congress, representing Louisiana's 1st District, co-sponsored HR 120.

"Dalip Saund's story is one of determination and true accomplishment," he said. "He personifies the idea that every person can, through hard work and dedication, achieve amazing heights."

Born September 20,1899, in the village of Chhajulwadi in Punjab, Saund attended a boarding school in Jammu and graduated with a BA degree in mathematics from Punjab University in 1919. He immigrated to the United States in 1920 to pursue graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and received his MA and PhD in mathematics.

Then for nearly 30 years, he was a successful lettuce farmer in Imperial Valley and during this time began fighting against discriminatory laws against Indians to become American citizens.

In 1949, Saund and the other Indians finally earned the right to become US citizens when he convinced Congresswoman Clare Booth and Congressman Emanuel Celler to sponsor legislation that would allow for Indian and other Asian immigrants to become naturalized Americans.

The legislation was passed by Congress and was signed into law by President Harry Truman. Saund's passion for democracy and politics led him into a life of public service when in 1952, he was elected and served for four years as justice of the peace in Westmoreland, California.

In 1958, Saund made history when he became the first Asian elected to Congress and represented California 29th District in the 85th and the two succeeding Congresses. His political career was cut short when he suffered a stroke while campaigning for a fourth term.

Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC