Congressmen ask U.S. Secretary of State to advocate for rights to “practice religion free from violence”
Washington, D.C.: Oct. 31, 2015 — On the eve of the 31st anniversary of the 1984 Sikh Genocide, the co-chairs of the American-Sikh Congressional Caucus penned a strong letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, noting that growing unrest in Punjab, India has “greatly concerned” them and asking Kerry to “be an advocate for religious freedom and the ability of those in India and around the world to practice their religion free from violence.”
Referencing the Oct. 14 massacre by Indian police of Sikhs who were peacefully protesting the desecration of their holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, Reps. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Patrick Meehan (R-PA) state: “We believe the sacred scriptures of all religions should be respected.” When a copy of the Granth was destroyed by unknown perpetrators on Oct. 12, the congressmen explain, “This desecration prompted hundreds of peaceful Sikh protestors to take to the streets to demand action.” The government responded violently to the peaceful protests, as the congressional letter states: “Two demonstrators were killed when police opened fire on a crowd of protestors.”
The letter, issued on Oct. 30, additionally affirms “the right to assemble and the right to free speech.”
“The Sikh community and all who care about the rights and liberties of Indians are deeply grateful to the Sikh Caucus leadership for speaking so boldly on this urgent issue,” remarks Bhajan Singh, who met with Congressman Garamendi in September to discuss concerns about religious freedom violations in India. “Human rights is the nearest and dearest issue for the Sikh community, who were stricken by a state-sponsored genocide in 1984. These 31 years later, there has been zero justice dealt for that atrocity, which caused many Sikhs to flee from India to the United States to seek refuge from religious and political persecution.”
Singh, the founding director of U.S.-based human rights group Organization for Minorities of India, adds: “Because the growth of our community in the United States is so closely linked to the ongoing violations of human rights practiced by the Indian State, Sikh-Americans remain passionately concerned about the future of their brothers and sisters in India, where they feel that minorities of all stripes suffer systematic discrimination, persecution, and denial of fundamental human liberties.”
Meehan and Garamendi previously signed an April 15 letter to Secretary Kerry regarding the ongoing hunger-strike in Punjab of Surat Singh Khalsa, an 83-year-old Sikh from California, in which they questioned whether his “human rights are being violated” after Indian police arrested him for his peaceful protest.