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Haridwar-Born Kashmiri Pandit Is US Ambassador to Holland: Who's Shefali Duggal?

A tearful Duggal was sworn-in by VP Kamala Harris, and took oath on the Bhagavad Gita in the presence of her mother.

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Video Producer: Akanksha Pandey

Video Editor: Rajbir Singh

"...So help me God," a tearful Shefali Razdan Duggal said as she concluded her oath, taken on the Bhagavad Gita, as the next United States (US) Ambassador to the Netherlands.

The oath was administered to the 50-year-old Kashmiri Pandit by US Vice-President Kamala Harris, in the presence of the former's mother and other family members.

A video of the ceremony, which occurred on Friday, 7 October, has been going viral on social media. It shows Duggal and her mother getting teary-eyed as the former takes oath. The two then embrace VP Harris amid a rousing round of applause.

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Harris, who herself is part-Indian, took to social media to congratulate Duggal as she took on her new role.

"I had the privilege of swearing in Shefali Razdan Duggal to be our next Ambassador to the Netherlands. We wish you well in this new role and thank you for your leadership," the VP said in a tweet.

Duggal was appointed as the US' Ambassador to the Netherlands by President Joe Biden on 11 March this year, and her nomination was approved by the Senate on 14 September.

Who Is Shefali Razdan Duggal? 

Duggal, a Kashmiri Pandit, was born in Haridwar, then a part of Uttar Pradesh and now in Uttarakhand, in November 1971.

In an interview with The Cherry Tree, the Indian-American said that she used to visit Kashmir quite often as a child, as the entire maternal side of her family lived there until the early 1990s.

She moved to Pennsylvania's Pittsburgh with her family when she was two years old, and then to Ohio's Cincinnati at the age of five, where she grew up.

"I was raised by a single mom in Cincinnati who worked two minimum wage jobs to support us. My father left us when I was very young and that in this profoundly and permanently affected the direction of my life," Duggal had told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after she was confirmed for the ambassadorship.

"I was born in India, but I was made in the United States," she added.

A degree-holder from Miami University and New York University in Mass Communication and Media Ecology respectively, her foray into politics began when she volunteered for the Massachusetts Democratic Party and the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

She worked in her first presidential campaign in 2000, for the then Democratic nominee Al Gore.

After the 2000 election, she worked as an analyst at a political strategy firm and graduated from a political leadership programme for Democratic women named Emerge America.

Served Under Hillary Clinton, Obama, Biden

During her career, spanning over two decades, the mother of two has worked under several heavyweights of the Democratic Party.

After being engaged in political activism for a brief period, she became involved in fundraising programmes for the 2008 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

A tearful Duggal was sworn-in by VP Kamala Harris, and took oath on the Bhagavad Gita in the presence of her mother.

Shefali Razdan Duggal and Hillary Clinton. 

(Photo: shefaliduggal.com) 

However, when Clinton lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama, Duggal joined his team as a member of the Obama for America National Finance Committee.

She also worked for Obama's re-election campaign in 2012.

A tearful Duggal was sworn-in by VP Kamala Harris, and took oath on the Bhagavad Gita in the presence of her mother.

Shefali Razdan Duggal and Barack Obama. 

(Photo: Shefaliduggal.com)

Simultaneously, Duggal was a part of now VP Harris' campaign team for the post of Attorney General of California.

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Later, she served in the National Finance Committee for Biden's 2020 presidential campaign, and was a member of the National Co-Chair of Women for Biden.

A tearful Duggal was sworn-in by VP Kamala Harris, and took oath on the Bhagavad Gita in the presence of her mother.

Shefali Razdan Duggal and Joe Biden. 

(Photo: Shefaliduggal.com) 

In her confirmation address, Duggal said that her life as an immigrant represented the diversity in the US. Reflecting upon her journey, she said:

"Rather than dwell upon what I did not have, I embraced the boundless opportunities that we are given here in the United States. I attended college and graduate school with the help of loans, grants and scholarships. As I faced some of my own challenges of being a minority woman with limited resources, I became attuned to the values of diversity and inclusion that continue to inspire me today."
Shefali Razdan Duggal

Advocate of Human Rights

A human rights activist, Duggal has also served as the presidential nominee to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Council, and currently holds the role of its western regional advisor.

"I focused on the rights of minorities and the critical importance of being a voice of the oppressed. This motivated me to pursue my years of work with Human Rights Watch and to serve as a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council," the new ambassador said.

Duggal is also a recipient of a number of prestigious awards, such as:

  • Western Regional Leadership Award by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

  • Most Powerful Women in California, National Diversity Council

  • 5 Most Influential Indian Women in the United States, Silicon India

  • Indian Women Empowered, Federation of Indo-Americans

  • Radio Zindagi Award of Appreciation for Dedication and Service to the Community 

  • California Assembly Certificate of Recognition for being a “Community Hero” 

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