Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category.

UNITED SIKHS CONDEMNS ATTACK ON SIKH COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR

By Anisha Singh and Manmeet Singh

Dr. Prabhjot Singh

Dr. Prabhjot Singh image taken from Fox6

On Sunday, September 22, 2013, Dr. Prabhjot Singh was walking on 110th Street in upper Manhattan, New York, when individuals began yelling anti-Muslim remarks him.  They knocked Dr. Singh down and punched him several times in his face, resulting in bruising, swelling, a puncture in his elbow, and a possible fractured jaw.

Dr. Singh is a doctor in East Harlem and an assistant professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.  The NYPD Hate Crime Task Force and Columbia University’s Department of Public Safety are investigating this as a hate crime.

This is not the first time a Sikh American has been attacked while walking.  In California we have had many cases of Sikh Americans being attacked and in New York and New Jersey we have seen Sikh children being bullied and attacked in their own schools.  Due to misconceptions after September 11, 2001 and little knowledge about world religions, Sikhs are seen as members of Al Qaeda because their turbans and beards are equated with terrorism.

Continue reading ‘UNITED SIKHS CONDEMNS ATTACK ON SIKH COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR’ »

UNITED SIKHS Youths Taking the Next Step in Education and Awareness

– Over 70 campers and 20 volunteers attended UNITED SIKHS Gurmat Camp, click here to view pictures.

– UNITED SIKHS youths memorable weekend in Oak Creek, WI, click here to view an album.

United States- We were all saddened and in disbelief at the tragedy that transpired at the Oak Creek Gurdwara in Wisconsin last year. We lost five brothers and a sister. But in essence our sense of sanctity was jolted and our nation shaken. It is at this moment that we must pause to remember: Paramjit Kaur, 41; Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65; Prakash Singh, 39; Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; and Suveg Singh, 84.

These are the times which define who we are as a people and the fortitude we carry within must carry us forward. It emboldened us and UNITED SIKHS restated our pledge- To Educate, to Empower and To Protect our community in order to recognize the human race as one. Our children must be the first source we educate so they can protect and empower themselves as they progress in life. Continue reading ‘UNITED SIKHS Youths Taking the Next Step in Education and Awareness’ »

UNITED SIKHS: Filling Gaps in Community Oral Health Needs

Highlights:

  • UNITED SIKHS’ team provided free medical and oral health screenings
  • Promoting Oral Health and Dental care in the Sikh Community
  • Click here for more information on CEED Projects and how you can volunteer to help.

New York/New Jersey, USA – Results from an ongoing study conducted by UNITED SIKHS and partners, within the Sikh American community in New York, show that more than half (53%) of all Sikh South Asian surveyed members have never received a check-up or screening from a dentist. Identifying and acting upon this need, UNITED SIKHS’ Community Empowerment and Education Directorate (CEED) team provided free medical and oral health screenings: on April 7, 2013 at the Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar in Port Reading, NJ; on April 21, 2013 at the Gurdwara Sikh Cultural Society in Richmond Hill, NY; and on June 2, 2013 at the Gurdwara Sikh Sabha in Port Reading, NJ.

Supported by the Dentaquest Foundation’s National Community Committee Oral Health Initiative, this was the first time our health projects focused on oral health and its relationship with chronic medical conditions, such as, diabetes and hypertension. Our partners in this undertaking are the New York University Prevention Research Center, New York University College of Dentistry, many Gurdwaras across New York and New Jersey and community members.

The highlight of the event was addressing oral health promotion in the Sikh American communities in New York and New Jersey, and built a capacity for community engagement for oral health. The four-hour oral health screenings attracted over one hundred and fifty participants who took advantage of our fifty volunteers providing language support and access to oral health services such as proper teeth cleaning and flossing, preventing cavities, oral health tips, glucose, blood pressure, body mass index, oral cancer screenings and oral health awareness.

Screening

Gurjeet Kaur, a community member who attended said, “It was a wonderful event and was very helpful. At the oral screening, I found that I had a cavity which I will get taken care of. I learned how to take better care of my teeth. The event was very well organized and all the volunteers were very helpful.”

Dr. Rucha Kaur, CEED manager, UNITED SIKHS, expressed her excitement of the event saying, “This is an example of community-academic collaboration where we are building upon projects we have previously undertaken in the community. More than half (53%) of all Sikh South Asian surveyed members, in our study, had never received a check-up or screening from a dentist. We recognized the crucial gap in the health needs of our community members and brought resources and partners to address and educate the community.”

Health providers were faculty and students from NYU College of Dentistry, individual doctors, medical assistants and dental hygienists, who volunteered their time and expertise. Each participant was given an information brochure to take with them detailing oral care and its importance.

Issued By:

Dr. Seema Kaur Director,

Community Empowerment and Education Directorate (CEED)

UNITED SIKHS

Tel: 1-646-688-3525 ceed-usa@unitedsikhs.org

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Campaign Against the Death Penalty in India

By Gareth Sims, Human Rights Law Network

The death penalty is judicial murder”

                                  Former Supreme Court Judge K T Thomas, 27 April 2013

 

The demand for ABOLITION OF DEATH PENALTY today got a boost when a conference was organized at Constitution Club, New Delhi, where renowned speakers from the legal academic and NGO fraternity strongly came out with the demand that the death penalty should be abolished from Statue books with immediate effect. The ‘Campaign Against the Death Penalty’  comprising of distinguished jurists, senior lawyers, human rights groups, academics, NGOs and activists have strongly asserted the demand  in wake of the disappointing return to capital punishment in the country.  The secretive and barbaric nature of these executions has added to the alarm and concern among the activists.

From left to right: Colin Gonsalves (Snr advocate Supreme court of India and Director of HRLN), Shailesh Rai (Amnesty International), Professor Anup Surendranath (National Law University Delhi), Suhas Chakma (Asia Centre for Human Rights), Razia Ismail Abbazi (India Alliance for Child Rights), Henri Tipghane (People’s Watch), Iftikar Gilani (Journalist).

From left to right: Colin Gonsalves (Snr advocate Supreme court of India and Director of HRLN), Shailesh Rai (Amnesty International), Professor Anup Surendranath (National Law University Delhi), Suhas Chakma (Asia Centre for Human Rights), Razia Ismail Abbazi (India Alliance for Child Rights), Henri Tipghane (People’s Watch), Iftikar Gilani (Journalist).

Speaking on the occasion Justice A.K Ganguly, Retired Supreme Court Judge, said the fact that Supreme Court in 2009 itself accepted that they have erred in hanging six persons by not following the ratio of the Bachan Singh judgment is a powerful reminder for abolition. The argument that the death penalty amounts to punishment is erroneous since it ends the possibility a person reforming, which is intrinsic to the very concept of punishment. The handing of the death penalty has become dangerous because of its arbitrary and judge centric nature and he strongly demanded its abolition.

Death is not a punishment it is killing…something that is irreversible cannot be a punishment. Death sentence is a full stop not a coma. “

On the case of Professor Bhullar, Justice Ganguly stated “The split verdict was granted in case of Bhullar- If two  judges say he is guilty and one says he is not, then give him life imprisonment but the death sentence in his case is atrocious, unethical, and barbaric.”

Justice A.K. Ganguly (Retd.) Supreme Court of India

Justice A.K. Ganguly (Retd.) Supreme Court of India

Anup Surendranath, Professor of law at the National Law University Delhi, analysed the inconsistent approach to alleged terror cases and other “heinous crimes” applied by the Supreme Court in awarding the death penalty pointed out that even Israel, a country which is known for its harsh and uncompromising approach to terrorism understands that the death sentence does not deter terrorism.

Journalist Iftikar Gilani, discussed the situation in Kashmir and drew our attention to two contrasting outcomes where individuals had and had not been executed.  In the first situation, the hanging led to further unrest and the deaths of thousands.  In the latter, the person who was finally released was responsible for the negotiation of a peace accord, saving the lives of thousands.

 Dr. V Suresh, General Secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) emphasized the decision to execute is to a great extent decided by political considerations and the Supreme Court in Professor Bhullar’s case has increased the possibility of its misuse by creating a new category of ‘terrorist’ while considering the mercy petition. He adds that the ethnic and social status bias is quite evident in death penalty sentencing: Dalits, minorities and the poor are overwhelmingly more likely to go to the gallows.

A statement to the conference by Justice MB Shah (who found that Professor Bhullar should be acquitted), was read by Satnam Singh Bains, Barrister from the UK,

Picture3

Reiterated MB Shah’s concerns over the Bhullar case:

“A Confessional statement made before a police (under TADA) would not be sufficient for imposing death sentence because there would be always a room for doubt…. In any set of circumstance, this was a very good case for allowing mercy petition, without being inference by any extraneous reasons…. If such confessional statements are relied for imposing death sentence, number of innocent persons would stand convicted.”

Satnam highlighted the role of some sections of the media who irresponsibly reporting alleged terrorist offences (as in Bhullar’s case) creating a hostile public atmosphere towards those on death row.  He pointed out that Professor Bhullar has never been convicted for being a member of a proscribed organisation, or for any other offences relating to a terrorist group.  Satnam also analysed the inherent flaws in Bhullar’s conviction.

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Shailesh Rai of Amnesty International discussed the “lethal lottery” of the death penalty by analysing a number of judgments. He highlighted the inconsistent and arbitrary manner in which the Supreme Court, in similar kinds of cases, makes its judgements – not so much by legal consideration but by the whim of the judge(s) hearing the case

Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA, discussed how after the December 16 rape case the media deliberately tried to reduce the debate to the single demand of hanging the rapist. The women’s movement, to a great extent succeeded in exposing the mask of the patriarchal forces that were hiding their real bias against women’s freedom behind the demand of ‘Hang the Rapist’. It is very significant that the progressive women’s movements are against the death penalty for rape, holding that the death penalty is not part of the solution to a much deeper rooted problem.

From left to right: Dr V Suresh (People’s Union for Civil Liberties), Satnam Singh Bains (UK Barrister), Justice A.K. Ganguly (Retd.) Supreme Court of India, Kavita Krishnan (All India Progressive Women Association), Navneet Kaur Bhullar (wife of Professor Bhullar).

From left to right: Dr V Suresh (People’s Union for Civil Liberties), Satnam Singh Bains (UK Barrister), Justice A.K. Ganguly (Retd.) Supreme Court of India, Kavita Krishnan (All India Progressive Women Association), Navneet Kaur Bhullar (wife of Professor Bhullar).

Reprieve’s Meagan Lee (from the United Kingdom) , Stated that Professor Bhullar’s case is an exceptional one. The Indian Supreme Court’s recent affirmation of  the death sentence in his case is inconsistent with the international standards that have been developed in relation to “death-row” phenomenon. She stated that such prolonged delays can constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment amounting to torture. There’s been a continued global decline in application of he death penalty, with only 21 countries in the world known to have carried out executions in 2012. India has also voted against UN General Assembly resolutions calling for a moratorium on the death penalty.”

Navneet Kaur Bhullar, wife of Professor Bhullar, told of her moving 18 year fight for Justice and the journey of pain and agony that she has gone through to seek justice for Professor Bhullar. Since the 2002 Supreme Court verdict she has lobbied the Indian, German, and United Kingdom Governments as well as the European Union.  She thanked all the delegates, those in India and abroad who had taken up the case of Professor Bhullar.

Jaswant Kaur, Human Rights Advocate (Left), Navneet Kaur Bhullar, wife of Professor Bhullar (right)

Jaswant Kaur, Human Rights Advocate (Left), Navneet Kaur Bhullar, wife of Professor Bhullar (right)

Razia Ismail Abazzi from the India Alliance for Child Rights, spoke on the issue of juvenile justice.  She pertinently stated that the issue is not whether someone who is a few months above the age of 18 can be executed and someone a few months the other way cannot be executed, but simply that there should not be the death penalty for anyone of any age.

Henry Tipghane from People’s Watch spoke on the death sentences passed on the alleged associates of Veerappan now aged in their 60s. As with many death row cases there had been an inordinate delay. Henry highlighted the gross human rights violations committed by the Special Task force, purportedly established to catch Veerappan, which included torture, custodial deaths, and rape, has gone unpunished.  He highlighted the contradiction between the failure of the Indian state to secure justice for the victims before the NHRC and members of the security forces involved in human rights violation being accelerated for promotion.

Colin Gonsalves, Snr Advocate of the Supreme Court and Director of HRLN

Colin Gonsalves, Snr Advocate of the Supreme Court and Director of HRLN

Colin Gonsalves Senior Advocate of the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) moderated the sessions and emphasized that this is not the first and nor the last effort to abolish the death penalty. It should go on till we succeed in removing these draconian provisions from statue books.

The speakers who spoke on the occasion were Colin Gonsalves, Senior Advocate, Director of Human Rights Law Network , Justice A.K. Ganguly (Retd.) Supreme Court of India, Razia Iamail Abbazi, Indian Alliance for Child Rights, Iftikar Gillani, Journalist, Henri Tipghane, People’s watch, Shailesh Rai, Amnesty International, Professor Anup Surendranath, NLU Delhi, Meagan Lea, Reprieve, Gurvinder Singh Sidhu, Secretary Lawyers for Justice, Satnam Singh Bains, UK Barrister, Kavita Krishnan, All India Progressive Women Association, Suhas Chakma, Asian Centre for Human Rights, Navneet Kaur Bhullar, wife of Professor Bhullar, Jaswant Kaur, Human Rights Advocate, and Smriti Minocha of HRLN, .

Around 200 people participated in the conference which was organised by Human Rights Law Network in collaboration with Peoples Union for Civil Liberties, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Free Bhullar Campaign, PVCHR, AISA,  Anhad, Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, , Indian Alliance for Child Rights,  Lawyers for Human Rights International, Lawyers for Justice, People’s Watch, SHRG and other NGOs.

The full conference will be available on you tube under the heading “Campaign against the Death Penalty India Conference 10/5/2013” 

CA Elderly Sikh Man Attacked, Humiliated, Disrespected: Bias Crimes MUST be STOPPED!

Written by Sharon Persaud and Anisha Singh

 

Fresno, California– BIAS ATTACK, HATE CRIME, BRUTALITY… no matter what it is called, IT MUST STOP NOW! This week, a California, elderly, Sikh man was violently attacked outside the gurdwara he faithfully attends to practice his religion. Eighty-two year-old Piara Singh, was beaten with a steel pipe outside a Fresno temple in what police believe is a hate crime. Singh spends his nights at Nanaksar Sikh Temple in Fresno, California, to watch over the grounds and prepare langaar, the free daily meals that Sikh temples traditionally serve. According to his nephew, Charanjit Sihota, on the morning of Sunday, May 5th, 2013, , Singh left the temple grounds for a morning walk dressed in his usual traditional clothing. Singh’s son, Kawal Singh, was driving to the temple to pick up his father when up ahead he saw a man jump off his bicycle and beat Singh with something metal. He honked the horn and called 911.[1] Singh is expected to make a full physical recovery after suffering a punctured lung, fractured jaw and staples in his head due to lacerations.

But what about Singh’s emotional recovery? Too often, members of the Sikh community become victims to hate crimes, bias-based bullying, and discrimination throughout the United States.While we live in a country created by many cultures, races, and religions, we still see these attacks frequently occurring even in the 21st century. Because Singh wears a turban on his head does not mean he is any different from the Caucasian man waiting for the bus, or the African American man entering the store, or the Hispanic woman playing with her child in the playground. Just like them, he is a husband, father, grandfather, brother, friend.  He is a human being regardless of the faith he follows.

Representative Judy Chu (D-CA), co-chair of the American Sikh Caucus, released a solemn statement to the public stating, “My heart broke when I heard about the suspected hate crime on Piara Singh, an elderly Sikh man dedicated to his faith and his community. He was doing what he did every day, volunteering at his gurdwara, when a man viciously attacked him.  In the wake of Oak Creek and Elk Grove, it is clear that hysteria and stereotyping are still far too common.  We must combat the growing wave of violence and intolerance that threatens the safety and civil liberties of all Americans, including the Sikh American community. That is why I have pushed the FBI to finally begin tracking hate crimes against the American Sikh community.  This will help law enforcement officers in every locality to do all they can to prevent violence against this – and all – communities.  We cannot wait any longer.”

Since September 11, the world has been gripped by fear and many minority communities, including the Sikh community, have suffered from the backlash of misinformation and ignorance. The first reprisal killing after Sept 11 was of a Turban wearing Sikh in Arizona, who was mistaken as belonging to the group which perpetrated the 9/11 incident. Sikhs, due to their unique appearance, have since been a target of hate and bias crime and discrimination. Every week, UNITED SIKHS receives reports from Sikh adults and children who are victims of race-based hate crimes and those being denied their right to practice their religion. A Sikh’s right to wear his articles of faith has been challenged in schools, the workplace, prisons and other public places. Sikhs also suffer increased harassment by TSA officials at airports because they wear the Turban.

While the fear of another attack is understood, nothing justifies channeling that fear through violence towards others based on stereotypes perpetuated by the media.  UNITED SIKHS continues to work to stop the cycle by creating awareness of these issues amongst authorities and the public through talks, seminars, and multifaith events. In addition, UNITED SIKHS offers advice, counsel and legal representation to those whose legal rights are being denied by errant and mis-informed authorities and the public.

Manvinder Singh, UNITED SIKHS Director, attended the town hall meeting at Nanaksar Sikh Temple in Fresno on the evening of Tuesday, May 7th to discuss this vicious attack on Piara Singh. There were 300 attendees including police officials and Fresno’s Police Chief that spoke out against hate crimes and the need to educate society on the Sikh religion and its worshippers.

 

1. Marcum, Diana. “Sikh Man, 82, Beaten with Pipe in Fresno in Suspected Hate Crime.” Los Angeles Times., 8 May 2013. Web. 9 May 2013.

 

Mr. Piara Singh

Mr. Piara Singh

UNITED SIKHS cosponsor and speak at the “NYC 2013: Electing the Right(s) Mayor” Forum

On Sunday, May 5, 2013 at 2pm, the Arab American, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian community of New York gathered at New York University to hear where mayoral candidates stand on important issues affecting our community.  The packed room listened in as moderator Errol Louis, of NY1, asked candidates tough questions.  Mayoral candidates in attendance were: Sal Albanese, Bill de, Blasio, Adolfo Carrion, Jr., John C. Liu, Christine C. Quinn, Erick Salgado, and Bill Thompson.  UNITED SIKHS cosponsored this event and policy advocacy and representative, Anisha Singh, asked the candidates how they would address bias-based bullying.

Anisha asked the candidates about their bias-based bullying prevention initiatives. She stated, “Three out of four Sikh American boys are bullied in the United States due to their appearance.  They were called Bin Laden, terrorist, and told to go ‘back to their country’ even if they were born and raised in the United States. Too many of our children are victims of hate crimes. In 2008, a Sikh boy’s turban was lit on fire by a classmate in New Jersey.  That same year a New York City Sikh girl’s uncut, sacred, hair was forcibly cut by a classmate.  A year later, another New York City Sikh boy was punched and harassed daily for about a year and nothing was done for him until it escalated to disturbing degrees of violence.  Those are just three examples within a period of a year.  Our children are afraid to go to school and are constantly looking over their shoulder with this fear, all at such a young age.  As Mayor, what preventative measured are you going to take to ensure our children are not victims of bullying and hate crimes in their schools?” she asked.

In response to the question, candidates and audience members gasped and began tweeting their thoughts (for more see: #Right4NY). Sal Albanese spoke on his experience working in public school education and his belief that the message must go out to the public that bullying will not be tolerated.  Bill de Blasio gained applause from the audience when he addressed the issue by stating that “we as a nation have let go of civics at a time when it is most vital for civic education to become a priority.”  Adolfo Carrion said “it will be his mayoral directive to speak to parents of children who bully other children to make sure they are educated.”  He also said that this was an issue that was “swept under the rug” and thanked Anisha for highlighting the issue.  Christine Quinn responded by saying that, “just as students are victims of bullying and are afraid to walk into their school buildings, so are the teachers and staff who also get victimized.”  To address this she posed the implementation of staff trainings for teachers and, if elected, she would visit schools with bullying incidents the morning after the incident happened.  Erick Salgado said there should be “zero tolerance” for bullying and there needs to be a hotline for reporting these bullying incidents.

John Liu stole the spotlight by speaking at length about Sikh advocacy work. He started by thanking UNITED SIKHS for our work and pointing out that Sikh advocacy groups work hard to come up with free curriculum kits for school to use to educate their students on Sikhism yet these kits are ignored by the schools.  He also pointed out that complaints to the Department of Education are not taken seriously but that these complaints and incidents need to be addressed and even tracked.  Finally, he spoke on how the NYPD does not allow Sikhs to wear turbans while on the police force and this also needs to change.  Bill Thompson agreed with Liu about getting rid of the NYPD turban regulation in order to show Sikhs are a part of and accepted by the community.

Other memorable moments at the forum included opening statements and other important questions posed to the candidates. In her opening statement, Christine C. Quinn stated, “[We should be] bringing communities together, not ripping them apart.” Bill de Blasio spoke on the need for Muslim Holidays and John C. Liu recognized that our communities suffered the most.

Other questions posed to the candidates included topics of religious freedom, police accountability, free speech, and Muslim school holidays.  In light of the “Ground Zero Mosque” opposition, candidates asked what they would do as mayor to ensure that people of faith are able to build places of worship and that no neighborhood in our city is off limits to any community.  In addition, candidates were informed that zero leads have been produced from years of warrantless spying and profiling by the NYPD on Muslim and Sikh Americans.  When candidates were asked to raise their hands if they thought the current NYPD surveillance program is unconstitutional, only John C. Liu and Erick Salgado raised their hands.  John Liu added, “America is a place of religious freedom.  How can anyone here think it is okay to spy on people just because they look Muslim?” All other candidates present claimed that while they thought the NYPD surveillance is constitutional, they think it is wrong.  Nourah AbuShaban, an NYU student, also asked the candidates to speak on the protection of free speech.

To see the buzz from the event, search #Right4NY on twitter and read comments from candidates, participants, and the audience.

 

Anisha Singh, Policy Advocate for UNITED SIKHS, asks candidates about bias-based bullying

Anisha Singh, Policy Advocate for UNITED SIKHS, asks candidates about bias-based bullying

Mayoral Candidates

Mayoral Candidates

Mayoral Candidates

Mayoral Candidates

Milestone Day: First American Sikh Caucus

Article by: Sharon Persaud, Media and Communications Manager, UNITED SIKHS

Washington D.C.- April 24th, 2013 is now a significant day in the history of Sikh Americans. From day one of migration to the America from India some 130 years ago, Sikhs have not only been successful and making positive impact in society, but also feeling the backlash that comes from the ridiculation of sacred practices and beliefs. How best to tackle these issues that going straight to the ones in charge, in the United States, that is Congress.

By forming a caucus, which by definition is the meeting of supporters and members of a political party or movement to listening and disseminate issues of a particular group. In the United States, the formation of a caucus provides a specific group with a direct voice to the lawmakers and changers. Why is this so important to Sikh Americans? Sikh Americans have faced racism and discrimination for many years and it only heightened after 9/11 and the Wisconsin shootings to name just two. As a result of September 11, some Sikh Americans have become subject to discrimination, often from individuals who under a mistaken identity have attacked people of color, be it Hindus, Sikhs or Muslims and Arabs. Balbir Singh Sodhi, a gas station owner, was killed on September 15, 2001 due to being mistaken for a Muslim. In a 2011 report to the United States Senate, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported several assaults and incidents of arson at Sikh temples after September 11. All were labeled as hate crimes that resulted from the perpetrators’ misconceptions that their targets were Muslim.[1]

Although the majority of anti-Sikh hostility and hate crimes occurred in the wake of the September 11th attacks, Sikhs continue to be the target of racially motivated violence. As recent as March 7, 2011, a Sikh family in Virginia received death threats in an anonymous letter, charging the family with ties to the Taliban.[2] Referred to as the Turban Family, the family was told to either leave the country or face serious consequences. There was also a tragic occurrence on March 8, 2011 where two elderly Sikh gentlemen, Surinder Singh, age 67, and Gurmej Atwal, age 78 were gunned down from a moving truck in West Sacramento California.

Many civil-rights organizations such as UNITED SIKHS, SALDEF and SIKH COALITION have dedicated their work to empowering, educating and protecting individuals facing such backlash. Two determined individuals took the honest upon themselves to propose this caucus to Congress members: Harpreet Singh Sandhu, a California-based political activist, and Dr. Pritpal Singh, American Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (AGPC) Coordinator, for their role in spearheading the formation of the Caucus.   “The Sikh dream of a direct voice to Congress about Sikh related issues has come true. The Caucus’ purpose is to educate and allow Members to strategize on how to support the American Sikh community and attack the many issues we face today including bullying, Armed Forces, and homeland security. I am so happy to have civil rights groups such as the UNITED SIKHS as a supporter and this Caucus can only get bigger and bigger as days to come,” said Mr. Sandhu.

Representatives from California, Congresswoman Judy Chu (D) and Congressman David Valadao (R) currently the co-chairs of the caucus, launched the First American Sikh Caucus. They also received the backing of 28 other members of Congress. While this caucus has the potential to grow and grow, we are looking forward to them listening to the trials and tribulations facing the Sikh communities nationwide. From bullying in schools to ridicule by TDA, amendments need to be made allowing Sikhs to practice their religious beliefs freely in this country of freedom.

Sikhs express only excitement and enthusiasm on this so long awaited formation of this caucus. Many Sikh groups have come formed to support the caucus and their numbers are increasing.  Its time to be a witness to the change and to see the collective impact this will have on the issues and concerns that the Sikh communities are facing.   The Latino- Jewish Caucus, launched in 2011, has brought change and voice to the concerns faced by these two groups jointly. The model is to make sure that the Sikhs who with the other color minorities who have faced the brunt of discrimination/attacks based on their identity hope to make sure that the caucus will address their issues and concerns.

  1. ^ “Anti-Muslim Incidents Since Sept. 11, 2001”. Southern Poverty Law Center. March 29, 2011. Retrieved January 12, 2012.
  2. ^ Sikh family receives death threats in us. (2012, March 07). Press Trust of India. Retrieved from http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/sikh-family-receives-death-threats-in-us-183543

UNITED SIKHS Policy Advocate speaks at 2013 National South Asian Summit

The 2013 National South Asian Summit, hosted by South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), was held in Washington D.C. from April 19-22, 2013. This year’s theme was “In Pursuit of Justice” and was held to learn about issues affecting South Asians in the United States, and to build skills and connect with other activists, government officials, and South Asian organizations.

UNITED SIKHS representative and policy advocate, Anisha Singh, spoke on the panel entitled: “Faith and Social Justice: Strengths, Stigmas, and Possibilities of Social Justice Through a Faith Lens.”  This panel was formed to address the struggles associated with incorporating religious viewpoints into progressive advocacy work. Just as the South Asian community in the United States is very diverse in its faith/religious identities, the panel consisted of representatives from Islam, Christianity, Hinduism & Sikhism. The moderator was Sethu Nair from Sadhana and panelists were  UNITED SIKHS’ Anisha Singh, Arun Lobo, a Catholic priest and activist, Shaykh Abdool Rahman of ICNA Relief, and Sadhana’s Sunita Viswanath.

Anisha spoke on her personal experiences with balancing religious views while being progressive in her activism.  She emphasized the importance of having confidence in one’s own faith and internalizing that for it not to be a factor when working with other organizations with alternating viewpoints on religious.  An example given by Anisha was the UNITED SIKHS advocacy work against bias-based bullying in conjunction with LBGT organizations.  By finding a common issue like bullying, UNITED SIKHS has been able to collaborate with progressive organizations despite our faith-based roots.  Anisha also spoke on the importance of finding common ground with other organizations and working towards that common goal despite differing opinions in other aspects such as religion, especially when alliance building is vital in advocacy work.

Several other panels took place during this summit as well. On Friday, April 19, 2013, the ChangeMakers Reception included special guest, Pramila Jayapal, founder of OneAmerica, who spoke on the significant impact on social change in the South Asian community.  The following day, the panel, “Law Enforcement in the Community: Exploring Multiple Strategies for Engagement” addressed the struggling relationship between law enforcement and South Asians, especially Sikhs and Muslims post-9/11.  Issues raised included the lack of cultural sensitivity by the FBI when questioning our communities and the abuse of surveillance and  stop-and-frisk on our community.  Another panel spoke on the rising South Asian population in the United States and the need for South Asians to be better engaged politically in order for our voice to be heard. The evening plenary spoke to the hearts of the audience by reflecting on the Oak Creek shooting nine months after it took place. The reflection reminded the South Asian community that Sikhs are particular targets for hate crimes and are still fighting twelve years after 9/11.  The need for mental health help for Oak Creek victims was also brought to light.

On Sunday, April 21, 2013, other panels were presented such as the “Profiling and Surveillance of the Muslim Community” panel where panelists spoke on the alarming civil rights violations by the NYPD through the city’s allowance of racial-based surveillance.  The lunch plenary included panelists from the around the globe who spoke on their efforts to help South Asian communities in our countries.  There were also panels addressing anti-immigrant laws and the best way to advocate for immigration reform on Capitol Hill.

On the last day of the summit, Anisha participated in Advocacy Day where representatives from the White House Administration and government agencies spoke on immigration reform, healthcare, and hate crimes.  These officials included: Kiran Ahuja from the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders, Mayra Alvarez from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Roy Austin from the U.S. Department of Justice  Felicia Escobar from the White House, and Gautam Raghavan from the White House Office of Public Engagement. After the discussions, Anisha joined others to Representative Joseph Crowley’s office and spoke with Staffer Jeremy Woodrum to speak on immigration issues. She informed him that Sikhs are most likely to be profiled and have their legal status in the United States checked based on post-9/11 stereotypes.  These profiling programs deter Sikhs and South Asians from reporting crimes, sharing information, and serving as witnesses due to their fear of profiling and deportation.  Mr. Woodrum agreed that these programs are counterproductive and that progressive immigration reform is necessary in this country.

Record number of attendees at this year's Summit.

Record number of attendees at this year’s Summit.

 

Anisha joins others on Faith and Social Justice panel.

Anisha joins others on Faith and Social Justice panel.

Kiran Ahuja speaks to participants on Advocacy Day

Kiran Ahuja speaks to participants on Advocacy Day.

 

Learn about How the U.S. Department of State Can Help U.S. Citizens Residing or Traveling Abroad in Personal Crisis (including Victims of Forced Marriage and Crime Abroad).

Please join the upcoming national webinar – the first of its kind – which will feature guest presenters from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services who will outline the ways in which they can assist U.S. citizens abroad.
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA) is responsible for the welfare and protection of U.S. citizens abroad, and for the issuance of passports and other documentation to U.S. citizens and nationals. CA’s Office of Overseas Citizens Services advises and supports U.S. citizens and our embassies and consulates around the world in matters such as forced marriage, crime victim assistance, deaths and estates, arrests, citizenship and nationality, among others. To assist U.S. citizens who may be planning to visit or reside overseas, the Office of Overseas Citizens Services issues consular information sheets, travel warnings and public announcements which informs the public of conditions abroad that may affect their safety and security.

Please click -https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/460423399 to register for the webinar – space is limited, so sign up soon! Participants are asked to submit questions in advance when they register; webinar log in information will be emailed after you sign up.

UNITED SIKHS represents Sikh Community at the Annual Event of UN SUB-COMMITTEE FOR THE ELIMINATION OF RACISM

UNITED SIKHS participated and represented Sikh Community at the SACRED SEASON PROGRAM organized by Sub-Committee for the Elimination of Racism on October 18th at Baha’i International Community’s United Nations Office in New York. The event invited leaders and speakers from different communities and religions to get together and converse on their views on the topic: THE IMPACT OF RELIGION, SPIRITUALITY AND BELIEFS ON RACISM, MIGRATION AND DEVELOPMENT. The event was facilitated by Dr. Bobbi Nassar, Co-Chair Ngo Committee on Human Rights and Mr. Bruce Knotts, Chair Ngo Committee On Human Rights.

Prabhkaran Singh, staff attorney with UNITED SIKHS was one of the speakers and represented Sikh Community at the event. “We as Sikhs believe that there is only one God, the same God for people of all religions. One of the motto of Sikhism and the UNITED SIKHS tag line is to “Recognize the Human Race as One”, essentially a class-less society where racism is not permitted. Every one should be allowed to exercise their right to freedom of movement & and residence within the borders of each state.” said Prabhkaran Singh. Bruce Knots in his closing remarks spoke about the challenges Sikh community has been facing since 9/11 and commended the community for its persistence.