New Jersy Sikhs celebrate Vaisakhi with Governor
April 30, 2006

The Vaisakhi of 2006 will leave an indelible mark in the dynamic history of Sikhs in New Jersey . Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula organized the celebration of Vaisakhi ....

New Jersy Sikhs celebrate Vaisakhi with Governor

Sunday 30th of April 2006

Jasjit Singh

Trenton , NJ – The Vaisakhi of 2006 will leave an indelible mark in the dynamic history of Sikhs in New Jersey .  Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula organized the celebration of Vaisakhi  on 25th April at the State Assembly house with  representatives of New Jersey Gurdwaras and Sikh organizations. Present along with the Governor Jon S. Corzine were Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts, assemblyman Upendra J Chivukula and many other state officials.  The celebration served as a platform to educate the participants and visitors on Sikhism.  Ever since the tragic events of September 11, 2001 , the Sikh community has been doubly victimized – first as fellow Americans who feel the tragic loss of life and second as victims of hate crimes that have remained sadly persistent since that tragic day.

Celebrations started with opening greetings from assemblyman Upendra J. Chivukula. He said, " A Sikh believes in One God. Sikhs means a seeker of Truth. More than 20 million Sikhs take pride for their achievements in this world. I'm reminded how the history of Indian immigrants in United States of America   begins with Sikhs in early 1900. Duleep Singh Saundh was the first Sikh and a three term congressman from 1956 to 1962. Sikhs provide a significant achievement to the American society, in the economy, and culture growth which is commendable."

Governor Jon S. Corzine said "This is also the week of remembrance of theHolocaust."

"The Sikh community has suffered from discrimination. We make sure New Jersey is home to all. We are truly pleased that Sikhs are here to celebrate Vaisakhi. New Jersey accepts us to grow together."

New Jersey General Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts addressed the Sikh gathering inside the Assembly hall and said, "No matter where we come from, we have challenges. Your faith has the true foundation. New Jersey 's great blessing is in its diversity. There is a lack of understanding and lack of awareness about other faiths and cultures. Today you have honored us with the Vaisakhi celebration in the assembly hall today. I thank you all for the Keertan and its translation."

During the Vaisakhi celebrations at the State House, Amardeep Singh, from the Sikh Coalition, spoke on the articles of faith that every practicing Sikh is required to carry and how these very articles of faith have been the targets of not only uninformed fellow Americans but also uninformed state and local police officers.

Kuldip Singh, President of United Sikhs, said to the Governor, "We will begin to come out of the shadows of 9/11 if law enforcement agencies help protect Sikh religious rights whilst providing Sikhs with the protection of the law."

Kavneet Singh an activist said, "The Khalsa is sovereign and will always remain so. The Khalsa is the very embodiment of truth, justice and human rights. This is a message to the Sikhs of New Jersey"

To further present the concerns of the Sikh community, members of the eight Gurdwaras of New Jersey, the World Sikh Council, United Sikhs and The Sikh Coalition presented the Governor and state officials a memorandum outlining the various concerns that the Sikhs share as a community.  The memorandum spoke on the issue of hate crimes that have been plaguing the Sikh community in its various forms, from Sikh schoolchildren suffering from harassment to workplace discrimination and harassment that Sikhs have been victims of.

Jasjit Singh, Secretary offered in the memorandum, "We are ready  to offer strong liaison contacts between the Sikh community and the state agencies by asking them to visit New Jersey Gurdwaras. This would encourage reporting of hate crimes."

Dr. Gurparkash Singh, the convenor of the event, said, " In the same vein, the Sikh also request that the Sikhs be provided access to the various media outlets and be allowed to present Sikh awareness programs.

Rajdeep Kaur stated, "It was a great opportunity for the Sikhs to share their religious belief with others. The Sikh community is pleased by the warm welcome of New Jersey State assembly hall"

Sutinder Singh, a trustee of Sikh Sabha, NJ said, "It was a great program. We should have it every year so that people in New Jersey recognize it as the major Sikh religious celebration"

Mr Harvinder Singh Wasson, an activist, said, "The memorandum also addresses the issue of Sikhs being arrested for wearing the Kirpan and the many cases that are eventually dismissed. The memorandum requests that the Attorney General provide guidelines directing country prosecutors not to prosecute Sikhs for carrying the Kirpan. It also referred the need for law enforcement agencies to provide awareness training to its officers at the state and local level."

 The issue of Sikh prisoners being denied their religious rights was also raised at the meeting, with the Sikh representatives looking to the state officials to secure the Sikh prisoners' basic rights such as the right to wear their articles of faith and the right to pray.

Overall, the Governor and the state officials remained receptive to the concerns of Sikhs and pledged further collaboration with the Sikh community in an effort to raise awareness of Sikhs not only among its own agencies, but in New Jersey as a whole.  The Sikh community conveyed its desire to collaborate regularly on such efforts which would reap benefits for everyone in New Jersey .
Article by Courtesy of http://www.panthic.org
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