It was a dual celebration for the Indo-American Community Federation, which concurrently celebrated its 25 anniversary 18 annual Unity Dinner at the India Community Center in Milpitas, Calif., March 22. Seen here is IACF’s Indian American founder Jeevan Zutshi (right) being honored by U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., who was the night’s keynote speaker and Lif Achievement Award recipient, with a ag own over the Capitol in Washington, D.C. (In Focus Photography photo via IACF)
MILPITAS, Calif. – In celebrating 25 years, the Indo-American Community Federation pulled out all
the stops for its 18 annual Unity Dinner event March 22 at the India Community Center here.
Among the guest speakers at the annual event, themed “Women’s History and Contribution,” and
which coincided with the federation’s silver anniversary, included U.S. Reps. Anna G. Eshoo and Ro
Khanna, both Democrats from California, as well as Consul General of India in San Francisco Sanjay
The annual Unity Dinner event, created by IACF to improve community involvement, education,
health and understanding of different cultures, was created in 2002 in the wake of the Sept. 11,
2001, terror attacks to promote harmony and unity in diversity.
IACF was founded as a nonprot by Indian American community activist Jeevan Zutshi in 1994 to
build bridges with mainstream organizations, diverse leaders, think tanks and public ofcials.
“The 25th Anniversary celebration of our organization, which coincided with our signature Unity
Dinner 18th Annual event, was received very enthusiastically by the community, diverse leadership
and lawmakers with two members of Congress, members of Assembly, county supervisors, city
mayors, councilmembers and many other public ofcials,” Zutshi told India-West.
“IACF was conceived to inspire Indo-Americans to be a part and parcel of mainstream America by
serving community at large. Today, after 25 years, we have a vice-mayor, a congressman and so
many enthusiastic members of the Indo-American community vigorously involved in mainstream
issues positively and have integrated with the American values bringing the best of Indian culture
to blend with it,” Zutshi added.
“I feel that my vision of promoting unity and harmony has proved to be a blessing for my own
personal development and am rmly committed to continue in my mission to unite community,” he
Eshoo, who represents California’s 18 Congressional District, was honored with the Lifetime
Achievement Award at the event and served as the keynote speaker.
“This evening is extraordinarily special for me and is for you,” she said. “This organization (IACF)
has prospered over time, where other organizations wear down over time.”
Eshoo thanked Zutshi for creating the federation, which she said has made a difference and
continues to make a difference.
“I have a very deep understanding that our country is made stronger through its diversity,” Eshoo
stressed, noting she experienced it in her family and sees it in her district. “We’re a nation of
immigrants and it is our greatest advantage.”
Eshoo also touched on the importance of the relationship between the U.S. and India, and how she
is working on upping the number of individuals from the country who can come to the U.S. on green
“My promise to (Zutshi and IACF) is that you have a sister (in me),” Eshoo said in response to
receiving the lifetime achievement award.
The congresswoman, in conclusion, awarded Zutshi for his 25 years of IACF with an American ag
that was own over the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Khanna and Panda were also featured at the event as honored guest speakers.
Khanna, overjoyed to be back in the Bay Area and seeing the diversity, called it “the future of the
“The country is changing. It is extraordinarily diverse and that’s our strength,” Khanna said. “Every
time I come back home, I’m so inspired to represent this place.”
Khanna believes the freshmen class in Congress is what the country is all about – diverse, women,
“Now we have people in Congress from all walks of life,” he said. The second-term congressman
said Congress is now a more apt indication of what America is and those people will bring forward
Zutshi’s vision for unity.
Panda, who has been in his role since November 2018, was speaking at the Unity Dinner for the rst
time since taking ofce.
Using the theme of the night, Panda cited a quote apt for the event. “If you want something to be
said, ask a man. If you want something to be done, ask a woman,” he said.
Additionally, there was a panel discussion on women’s history and contributions. Among the
panelists were Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley; Fremont, Calif., Police Chief
Kimberly Peterson; League of Women Voters president Syeda Reshma Inamdar; and Dr. Connie
Wun, advocate, educator, researcher and a national expert on issues impacting women and girls of
color. It was moderated by lawyer Anjali Shaykher Zutshi.
The panel discussion specically focused on the #MeToo movement.
Zutshi, in kicking off the discussion, noted that the movement isn’t just a women’s or girls’ issue,
but affects everyone.
O’Malley noted that social media, as well as people who are in show business, made the movement
spread like wildre.
“What’s important is that, those who responded, were from people from so many different
backgrounds just like us,” O’Malley said.
Wun echoed O’Malley’s point, adding that it is important that women are using their brand in
leadership roles to bring in more victims and raise awareness.
Inamdar added that some of the perpetrators now faced some sort of accountability.
“These powerful gures were nally held accountable where previously the women who came
forward were held accountable,” she said. “When women were considered human beings (receiving
the right to vote), the movement started to take shape.”
The police chief credited the snowball-like effect, saying the movement has had strength in
“It has reached a tipping point and the time is right,” Peterson said.
In shifting focus to the culture aspect of victims, Inamdar noted that there has been a shift where
there was previously shame placed upon women or victims who came forward and that has changed
with the new wave of voices.
Peterson used anecdotes as a younger police ofcer saying that in certain situations with cultural
differences, women were afraid to come forward and law enforcement didn’t get involved until it
was facing physical abuse allegations.
Wun talked about how her organization would travel across the country to hear what women deal
with in regards to sexual violence.
“There’s an imagination (here in the U.S.) that we as women are supposed to accept that we are to
be acted upon,” Wun explained. “What has been considered the norm can no longer be considered
the norm, especially if there is no consent.”
Wun elaborated for several minutes on the cultural aspect of the movement, noting women are
fearful of many repercussions of coming forward.
“What we want (victims) to know is that abuse, sexual abuse and violence is never OK,” district
attorney O’Malley stressed.
Anjali Zutshi opened the panel up to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh being conrmed into
the position despite facing sexual abuse allegations.
The panel spoke about how Christine Blasey Ford was right to come forward despite her allegations
stemming from decades earlier.
“I think women felt defeated,” O’Malley said, “but I think others felt inspired by her coming forward
when she had nothing to gain from it.”
Wun seconded O’Malley’s point, adding that, as a survivor herself, coming forward and having the
courage to speak out is not easy.
“What she did was continue to speak and showed the world she would continue to speak, and I
don’t believe she thought she was going to win,” Wun noted, adding that it is a win in itself not to
“Kavanaugh escaped, but that doesn’t mean the next one will,” Inamdar said.
The panel wrapped up with the panelists talking about stories from their past and providing advice.
“If something does happen, speak up,” O’Malley stressed. “It’s the courage that allows others to
In a male-dominated industry, Peterson said that people were very respectful for the most part, just
at the shock at seeing her in the position she held, citing her time on the SWAT team.
“The millennial generation grows up expecting equality,” she said. “To me, that’s a positive change.
I do think things are moving in the right direction.”
Wun said she has been experiencing #MeToo moments since she was in junior high, to varying
“I got a Ph.D. at U.C. Berkeley so I could be the perfect woman so my story would be accepted,” Wun
stated. But she said she had dealt with too much trauma, which led her to starting her own
nonprot, bypassing her aspirations to becoming an academic.
“The rst thing you have to know is it’s not your fault,” Wun advised. “No. 2, you are not alone. And
No. 3, you have to go through the process of healing.”
Going forward, Inamdar said there needs to be more education for children as to what’s normal and
what is not.
“We need a lot of prevention, and that’s through education and through society saying ‘this is not
OK,’” she said.
Each of the panelists stressed the need to give everyone a voice, and education in general will help
as the movement continues to ratchet up.
The IACF also used the platform of the Unity Dinner to dole out several awards. In addition to
Eshoo being bestowed the Lifetime Achievement Award, AAPI Women Lead co-founder Wun was
named Advocate of the Year; Alameda County administrator Susan Muranshi was honored with Excellence in Public Administration; Peterson was named the Public Safety Ofcer of the Year;
VajraSoft Inc. chief executive Kameshwar Eranki was named Entrepreneur of the Year; and the
Rajasthan Association of North America was named Community Organization of the Year.
The event was attended by hundreds of community members, including several dignitaries, among
whom were California Assemblymembers Ash Kalra, Kansen Chu and Evan Low; California State
Controller Betty Yee; Newark, Calif., Mayor Al Nagy; former Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves; and
several members of the Fremont City Council, among many others.
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