[Video] First-Ever Congressional Briefing on 1984 Anti-Sikh Pogroms
While Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited President Obama on September 30, 2014, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the U.S. Congress hosted the first-ever Congressional briefing on the November 1984 anti-Sikh massacres, which claimed the lives of several thousand Sikh civilians throughout India. According to eyewitnesses and Indian human rights activists, the killings were organized by government officials and facilitated by police officials. Thirty years later, the Modi government—like its predecessors—continues to deny justice to victims and survivors of the massacres.
to view the Congressional briefing video.
to view photos.
to read a Sikh Coalition essay in The Hill.
"Witnessing 1984" Panel Discussion
On September 27, 2014, the Sikh Coalition hosted a panel discussion on the Sikh experiences and events of 1984. Three community members shared their experiences about living through the attack on Harmandir Sahib in June 1984 and the pogroms of November 1984. The panelists included: Sawinder Singh, who witnessed Operation Bluestar at Darbar Sahib; Satpal Singh, who was present in Amritsar during Operation Bluestar and survived a mob attack on a train traveling through New Delhi in November 1984 and; Jasbeer Kaur, who lost family members to anti-Sikh violence in November 1984. The audience had an opportunity to ask questions to the panelists. The Sikh Coalition thanks the panelists for courageously sharing their stories.
"From 1984 to Gujarat" Book Discussions with Author Manoj Mitta
During the first week of October, the Sikh Coalition hosted two book discussion events with author, journalist, and human rights activist Manoj Mitta. The first event was at the Sikh Coalition’s NYC office and the second was at Columbia University, in collaboration with the Columbia Sewa Group. During both discussions, Mr. Mitta spoke about his two groundbreaking books on human rights abuses in India: When a Tree Shook Delhi: The 1984 Carnage and Its Aftermath
and The Fiction of Fact-Finding: Modi and Godhra
. The discussion also shed light on the history and consequences of mass state violence in India, with a focus on the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms and the 2002 anti-Muslim pogroms, both of which claimed the lives of thousands of civilians, and for which survivors still await justice.
"Connecting with 1984" Small Grants Pool
The Sikh Coalition is encouraging people to apply for funds through the “Connecting with 1984” Small Grants Pool
. This funding pool supports and encourages individuals and/or groups who would like to create and deliver educational programs and initiatives to raise awareness within the Sikh community about the events of 1984 and beyond.
One of the initiatives that the Sikh Coalition is proud to support is the performance of "Kultar’s Mime" in New York City. The play, written by a young Sikh poet, draws upon eyewitness accounts of the November 1984 Delhi pogrom to describe Sikh suffering, through the eyes of young survivors.
to learn more and apply.
30 Members of the U.S. Congress Stand Up for Sikh Children
Drawing on research reports published by the Sikh Coalition, 30 members of the United States Congress signed letters urging the U.S. Department of Justice
and U.S. Department of Education
to strengthen protections against school bullying. According to Sikh Coalition research
, a majority of Sikh American students experience school bullying. Although severe bullying is a civil rights violation, very few Sikh American families actually report it to authorities. To bridge this gap, the new Congressional letters call on federal agencies to improve data collection for bullying incidents affecting the Sikh American community.
to read more.
Sikh Coalition Joins NYC Hate Crimes Taskforce
The Sikh Coalition recently joined a Hate Crimes Task Force to combat hate crimes against Sikhs, Muslims, and Jews in New York City. The taskforce, led by Public Advocate Letitia James and the New York City Public Advocate's Office, convened its first meeting on September 29, 2014. The taskforce includes representatives from the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Muslim Consultative Network, and members of the New York City Police Department (NYPD).
The Sikh Coalition shared ideas on how to combat hate crimes in New York City, including ending institutionalized discrimination that perpetuates harmful stereotypes. This includes the NYPD's refusal to allow Sikhs to serve as police officers with their turbans and beards intact. The Sikh Coalition also pushed for training of local NYPD precincts on multiculturalism and religious diversity and ensuring that police officers are equipped to recognize possible hate incidents and take appropriate and swift action. Given the rise of hate crimes against New Yorkers of faith this past year alone, the Sikh Coalition looks forward to working with Public Advocate Letitia James on this critical initiative.
Central Valley Hate Crimes Taskforce Meeting
On September 30, 2014, Western Region Director, Simran Kaur, joined community members and the U.S. Department of Justice for the Hate Crimes Working Group meeting in Fresno, CA. The meeting included a presentation commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a facilitated discussion by the Community Relations Service and an update by Fresno Chief Mark Cullers on hate crimes prosecutions and outreach efforts in the Eastern District of California. The Sikh Coalition provided an update about local and national efforts to address discrimination and violence.
Sikh Coalition Stands Up Against Hateful NYC Subway & Bus Ads
On September 23, 2014, the Sikh Coalition gathered with New York City interfaith and civil rights leaders, Columbia University Professor Dr. Prabhjot Singh, and elected officials on the steps of City Hall to denounce anti-Muslim hate advertisements to be posted on NYC subway stations and MTA buses. The $100,000 anti-Islam advertisement campaign, funded by Pamela Geller, includes ads that dehumanize Muslims and make dangerous and inaccurate assumptions about an entire community. The ads, which will appear on a hundred buses and at two subway stations, generate fear, hatred, and bigotry misdirected at American Muslims, Arabs, and those perceived to be Muslim, including Sikhs and South Asian Americans.
Read the Sikh Coalition's perspective
on the NYC hate ads.
U.S. Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Abercrombie Religious Discrimination Case
The United States Supreme Court will be reviewing the case of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores
. The Sikh Coalition had filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief
in support of the EEOC's appeal.
In this case, the major clothes retailer argued it did not receive proper legal notice that a hijab-wearing Muslim applicant required a religious accommodation to its company dress code. The applicant was not hired because her hijaab conflicted with Abercrombie's "Look Policy." The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals found for Abercrombie because the applicant did not explicitly notify the employer of her need for a religious accommodation during her interview. The EEOC argued that the applicant was not even aware that her religious practice conflicted with the company's dress code at the job interview. The court's disappointing decision directly conflicts with at least four other federal appeals courts.
In taking on the case, the Supreme Court will address this critical issue which directly impacts Sikh job applicants who seek to wear their articles of faith in the workplace. Oral arguments will be heard next year.
Sikhs Testify To Change Textbook Coverage of Sikhs
On September 16, 2014, Sikh residents and the Sikh Coalition testified at a public hearing in Austin, TX to urge the Board of Education to include accurate information about Sikhs in Texas textbooks. Texas' Social Studies books contained over 40 factual errors about Sikhs. These errors range from calling Darbar Sahib the "Golden Palace" to teaching students that Sikhism originated from Vishnu and Sufism.
Since 2010, when Sikhism was first included in the Texas social studies standards
, the Sikh Coalition has been working with the three leading textbook publishers in the country. A few months ago, these publishers released their brand new draft social studies books to the public, and the Sikh Coalition, along with several university religion scholars, combed through these books to understand how Sikhism was portrayed. The Sikh Coalition will continue to work with both the publishers and the Texas Board of Education to correct these factual errors before the textbooks are adopted in November 2014. Stay turned for more updates on our campaign in Texas.
Junior Sikh Coalition Launches Its Third Year
For the third year in a row, the Sikh Coalition successfully kicked off another year-long Junior Sikh Coalition (JSC) program in New York City. After completing a rigorous application process, 17 youth from Connecticut, New Jersey and New York joined the group, bringing the total to 31 youth members!
to read about JSC’s Social Justice Boot Camp and Camp Chardi Kala experience.
FIBA Continues Discrimination Against Religious Minorities
The International Basketball Federation (FIBA)
has decided to relax its ban on religious headcoverings in limited circumstances as part of a “trial period.” The Sikh Coalition believes that FIBA’s religious headcovering ban must be lifted immediately and permanently for all matches—domestic and international—and that FIBA should stop using bureaucracy as a pretext for discriminating against religious minorities.
The Sikh Coalition urges its supporters to continue recording protest videos using the hashtags #CallFoulonFIBA and #LetSikhsPlay. Until FIBA stops discriminating against religious minorities, we will continue our fight.
to read more.
Junior Sikh Coalition Attend People's Climate March in New York City
In September 2014, world leaders came to New York City for a UN summit on the climate crisis. Before the summit, on September 21, 2014, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets as part of the People’s Climate March to demand a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; and a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities. Members of the Junior Sikh Coalition (JSC) participated in the People’s Climate March in support of these goals for a better world and marched alongside an estimated 400,000 other individuals. For many JSC youth, this was their first time attending a march and they began the day by taking Waheguru’s (God’s) name and reciting Jap Ji Sahib (prayer) at an event hosted by EcoSikh in Riverside Park. The JSC is proud to have been a part of the largest action for climate justice in history and thanks EcoSikh for the opportunity.
for a JSC interview in Democracy Now.
Sikh Coalition Attends Sikh Tech Summit
On October 4, 2014, a group of one hundred entrepreneurs and community members from across the nation gathered in San Francisco, CA for the first ever Sikh Tech Summit. Organized by Satjot Singh Sawhney, Asees Kaur Singh and Harman Singh Narula, the summit brought together Sikhs to discuss experiences and share ideas about working in the technology field and the role of entrepreneurship. The keynote address was provided by Dr. Narinder Singh Kapany - the father of fiber optics and founder of the Sikh Foundation. In addition, the Sikh Coalition's Board Chair Narinder Singh gave a talk to summit participants about what it means to be a Sikh entrepreneur. We congratulate the organizers on an excellent event and look forward to future gatherings.
The Sikh Coalition is Now Accepting Applications for Fall Internships
The Sikh Coalition Internship Program
gives students hands-on experience in promoting civil and human rights. Through the years, interns have worked to further the mission and vision of the Sikh Coalition by helping to achieve legal victories, as well as educating and empowering the community and contributing to the growth of the organization. To see the interns in action, click here
and to apply, click here
In this Issue