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East County News Service

January 3, 2017 (San Diego’s East County) -- Hindus are urging all 1,025 public school districts of California to declare official holiday on Diwali, the most popular of their festivals. They are also urging California’s all 1,222 charter schools, all about 3,170 private schools and all independent schools also to adopt Diwali as an official holiday on their 2017-2018 school year calendars.

Diwali, the festival of lights, aims at dispelling the darkness and lighting up lives, symbolizing victory of good over evil. Besides Hindus; Sikhs,Jains and some Buddhists also celebrate Diwali, which falls on October 19 in 2017.

Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement today, pointed out that it would be a step in the positive direction in view of presence of a substantial number of Hindu students at schools around the state, as it was important to meet the religious and spiritual needs of these pupils. Some school districts in New York, New Jersey and Maryland had reportedly already declared Diwali as a holiday.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, indicated that schools should make efforts to accommodate the religious requirements of Hindu students and show respect to their faith by not conducting regular business and scheduling classes on Diwali. We did not want our students to be put at an unnecessary disadvantage for missing tests/examinations/papers, assignments, class work, etc.; by taking a day-off to observe Diwali.

If California schools stayed closed on other religious holidays, why not Diwali, Rajan Zed asked. Holidays of all major religions should be honored and no one should be penalized for practicing their religion, Zed added

Zed suggested all California schools to seriously look into declaring Diwali as an official holiday, thus recognizing the intersection of spirituality and education. Zed noted that awareness about other religions thus created by such holidays like Diwali would make California students well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow.

Rajan Zed urged California Governor Edmund Gerald Brown Jr., California State Board of Education President Dr. Michael Kirst, California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, California School Boards Association CEO Vernon M. Billy, California Charter Schools Association President Jed Wallace, California Association of Private School Organizations President Kevin Baxter, and California Association of Independent Schools Executive Director James McManus to work towards adding Diwali as an official holiday in all the public, charter, private and independent schools of the state.

Zed further says that Hinduism is rich in festivals and religious festivals are very dear and sacred to Hindus.

Hinduism is oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in USA.

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