Indian consulates lobby against American Sikh efforts to recognize 1984 genocide

Sikh Genocide Resolution in Pennsylvania Reversed to Committee

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, USA—Pennsylvania almost became the third U.S. state to recognize the 1984 Sikh Genocide. 

House Resolution 1160 resolution, an act “condemning the November 1984 anti-Sikh violence in India as genocide,” has mystifying been reversed back to committee after being unanimously adopted by the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives. H.R. 1160 was introduced on October 15 by Representatives Alex Charlton and Jamie Santora and adopted on October 17. After passing the House, it was then reversed to the Rules Committee on November 13.

Connecticut legislators were harassed by Indian diplomats as they worked with local Sikh-Americans to pass Public Act No. 18-60 to “proclaim November thirtieth of each year to be Sikh Genocide Remembrance Day to remember the lives lost on November 30, 1984, during the Sikh Genocide.” The date was mis-recorded — the Sikh Genocide began on October 31, 1984. However, legislators like State Senator Cathy Osten boldly stood up in support of the resolution and reported the foreign interference to the American public.

The Sikh Information Centre (SIC), a California nonprofit, is curious to know if any Indian consulate is similarly interfering with the Pennsylvania resolution.

Bhajan Singh, Founder of SIC, asks, “Is a foreign government trying to dictate to an American state what policies they can pass on behalf of their American constituents? Have any Indian government officials been secretly lobbying against Pennsylvania’s non-controversial attempt to recognize the pogrom staged against our community in 1984?”

According to Senator Osten, Consul General Sandeep Chakravorty wrote her a letter suggesting she was being manipulated by local Sikhs in Connecticut. The consul compared the anti-Sikh violence to what he called “a systematic conspiracy or plot to exterminate a race such as the Nazi led extermination of Jews in Europe.” The consul concluded, “There has been no Sikh Genocide.” Osten responded by describing the consul as a Holocaust-denier.

The consul’s letter to Osten further accused “fringe/radical elements of the Sikh Community in Connecticut” of a conspiracy to be divisive. He claimed such “elements” are “carrying on in their vociferous, pernicious, and divisive campaign as they see money and power for themselves in this.” Similar defamation is ongoing against Sikh efforts to recognize 1984 in Pennsylvania, where November 15 reports claimed release that H.R. 1160 was withdrawn from the State House. Quoted in opposition to the resolution, Deep Gupta of the Asia Indian Americans of Central Pennsylvania (AIACPA) reportedly communicated his support for maintaining “unity among community.”

“We want the Indian consulates to stop disrupting unity among our American communities,” says Balbir Singh Dhillon, president of West Sacramento Sikh Gurdwara. “We don’t want them meddling and creating enmity in the melting pot of America. Not in Pennsylvania, not in Connecticut, and not in California.” Mike Boparai of California says, “The Indian consulates are acting as an extension of the RSS and working to spread the Hindutva agenda against the Sikhs.”

The Sikh Information Centre expresses that all communities from India — Buddhist, Christian, Dalit, Hindu, Jain, Muslim, the nonreligious, as well as the Tamil people, the Assamese, the Kashmiris, the tribals, and everyone else — should stand in solidarity with the Sikhs. Sikhs need to work with the Turks, the Assyrians, the Jews, the Tutsis, the Ukrainians, the Congolese, and people everywhere in the world who yearn for a hope-filled future. All people, especially those seeking justice, should link arms to achieve a free, peaceful, and prosperous society.

“Pennsylvania is a wake-up call for American Sikhs to withdraw support from politicians who deny the Sikh Genocide,” says Bhajan Singh. “The Indian government is trying to torpedo efforts by American citizens to educate our representatives about the tens of thousands of deaths our Sikh community suffered in 1984. It’s a reminder that Sikh Genocide remembrance is a core issue for any Sikh constituency.”

SIC questions what democratic process allowed House Resolution 1160 to be unanimously adopted and then reversed backwards. Pennsylvania was about to become the third U.S. state to recognize the pogrom against Sikhs that occurred from 31 October to 3 November of 1984. A number of cities, particularly in California, have also recognized the genocide.

In 2015, when the California State Assembly passed ACR34 to “remember those who lost their lives during the November 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms and massacre,” Consul General Venkatesan Ashok publicly criticized it. in 2016, he privately lobbied against a resolution in Fresno, CA by meeting with the city councillors to demand they withdraw an act proposed by Sikhs living in Fresno. The consul reportedly accused “extremists” of supporting genocide remembrance.

“Thousands of Sikhs are applying for asylum in the U.S. and Canada every year because of persecution by India’s religious nationalist government,” says South Asian affairs analyst Pieter Friedrich. “Asylum seekers from India are the majority of people being detained by immigration officials in the United States. The Hindu nationalist paramilitary called Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh dominates Delhi. The RSS calls for India to be declared a Hindu nation. Indian-origin communities of Sikhs, Muslims, Dalits, and Christians from Europe to North America widely report fleeing violence by these militant nationalist groups.”

The Sikh Information Centre asks if the Sikh Panth should abstain from collaborating with Indian consulates. It has received news reports about RSS infiltration of Indian consulates in nine countries, most notably in North America. SIC suggests that the most important Sikh concern is remembrance of the 1984 Sikh Genocide at local, state, and federal levels. Sikhs throughout the West should sit and eat together to cooperatively and transparently discuss pursuing recognition of this most poignant experience of our Panthik community. 

On November 10, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal issued a “recognition of Sikh Genocide Remembrance Day.”

Thanking the senator, Bhajan Singh says, “If only we had some voice in the U.S. Congress, American Sikhs could suggest a federal recognition of the genocide. India’s BJP is worried about its reputation if the USA takes up genocide remembrance. After we have seen the foreign hand interfering in American Sikh affairs, I exhort gurdwaras to reject Indian consulate overtures at every turn. We should also reject all consulate infiltration of Sikh religious events such as the Guru Nanak 550th birthday celebration organized by Manjit Singh GK.”  

Singh adds, “This shows very poor leadership and reminds us of the need not to act before establishing strong grassroots support. The Sikh community should not expend its efforts on soft victories and gimmicks. American Sikh communities around the United States would be better served by joining together to support true achievements like recognition of the 1984 Sikh Genocide. We hope that happens with a renewed community effort to reverse the sad state of affairs in Pennsylvania.”



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