Washington: The newly-formed American Sikh Congressional Caucus, which is backed by groups and individuals who in the past have openly supported the Khalistan movement, has got a shot in the arm with Ami Bera, the only Indian-American Congressman, joining the group.
Bera said he decided to join the Sikh Congressional Caucus to work on "civil rights" issues, ignoring the concerns of several Indian-American groups and also that of the Indian Embassy on the pro-Khalistan links of individuals supporting the Caucus.
"The memory of the tragedy at Oak Creek is still fresh, and in my own community of Elk Grove, two Sikh men were murdered in 2011 in a probable hate crime. Violence and discrimination against the Sikh American community is a real and important civil rights issue in the US," Bera told reporters.
"That's why I co-sponsored strong anti-hate crimes legislation earlier this year, and that's why I joined the American Sikh Congressional Caucus, to work on civil rights issues here in America," Bera said.
However he did not respond to the concerns that have been expressed by several members of the Sikh community, Indian-Americans and also that by the Indian Embassy here which argue that the Sikh American Caucus is backed by those who in the past have been open supporters of the Khalistan movement.
The announcement for the formation of American Sikh Congressional Caucus was made on April 24 at the Capitol Hill in the office of the Congresswoman Judy Chu. She is the Co-Chair of Caucus, along with Congressman David Valadao. So far more than 30 Congressmen have joined the Caucus.
Long time California-resident, Inder Singh, chairman of the Global Organisation of People of Indian (GOPIO) and an eminent community leader, argued that even though there might be people who were in the past were know supporters of Khalistan, the separatist movement has died now in the US.
"Even those people one time were one time sympathetic to the cause are no longer sympathetic to it," he said. Under present circumstance, no Congressman can go to the extent of supporting a separatist or extremist movement in India, Singh argued as he supported the cause of the Sikh Americans in the US.
"Post 9/11, it is the Sikh community which has suffered the most in the US. Because of the turban, they get discriminate the most. So they have to defend themselves," he said, adding that the formation of the Sikh Caucus is a step in the right direction.
Meanwhile, the supporters of the Caucus, have come together to establish Friends of Sikh Caucus. A formal announcement in this regard is expected to be made soon.