Did Kamala Harris lie about her grandfather being a freedom fighter and 'Secretary of State'?
Photo by AFP

Indian-origin US Senator Kamala Devi Harris scripted history when she became the first Black woman to be appointed as running mate by Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in the November presidential elections.

Harris was born to two immigrant parents: a Black father and an Indian mother. Her father, Donald Harris, was from Jamaica, and her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, a cancer researcher and civil rights activist from Chennai. She, however, defines herself simply as 'American'.

After her parents divorced, Harris was raised primarily by her Hindu single mother. She says that her mother adopted black culture and immersed her two daughters - Kamala and her younger sister Maya - in it. Harris grew up embracing her Indian culture, but living a proudly African American life. She often joined her mother on visits to India.

In her memoir, "The Truths We Hold," Harris wrote that the lesson "it was service to others that gave life purpose and meaning" that she inherited from her mother came from her grandmother Rajam, who had not completed high school but was a fiery protector of victims of domestic abuse.

Her grandfather P V Gopalan was born in Painganadu in Tamil Nadu and joined government service under the British and his work took him and the family to Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and Lusaka, Zambia, before he retired to Chennai.

Harris asserted that her grandfather had also been a "freedom-fighter." She said Gopalan “actually held a post in India that was like the secretary of state position in this country."

However, Harris’ maternal uncle G. Balachandran said that their father was a government official who was involved in the rehabilitation of refugees from East Pakistan to India.

None of this mentions any work of her grandfather at the level of secretary of state.

According to a report by LiveMint, Gopalan was nowhere close to being an 'original' freedom fighter. It further states that if Harris' grandfather would have been revolting against the British he would have been fired. It also highlighted that this could be an 'artful ploy' to garner Indian-American votes during the upcoming elections.

On India’s 74th Independence Day, Harris recounted childhood India visits, good idli, and long walks with grandfather in Chennai, where the latter would tell her about "heroes" who were involved in the freedom struggle in India. She said that the lessons from her grandfather, are a big reason "why I am where I am today".

Speaking during an event by 'South Asians of Biden', Harris extended wishes on India's Independence Day and said Indian and US communities are bound together by so much more than their shared history and culture.

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Free Press Journal