Sacramento, Calif. (April 13, 2011) – On the steps of the California State Capitol, dozens of California elected officials, including Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, and hundreds of members of the Sikh American community and greater California community celebrated the first ever American Sikh Day in California.
The April 12th event highlighted the history and contributions of Sikh Americans in California and the challenges the community faces.
The event, organized by Sacramento Sikh Temple and Senator Steinberg, included speeches made by a number of elected officials and interfaith and advocacy groups expressing their solidarity with the Sikh American community following the recent rise in attacks against Sikh Americans in California.
In November 2010, Harbhajan Singh was brutally attacked by two passengers in his cab in West Sacramento. The assailants were apprehended and charged with committing a hate crime. Additionally, on March 4, 2011, Surinder Singh (67) and Gurmej Atwal (78) were shot in Elk Grove, CA during their daily afternoon walk. Mr. Singh was found dead, while Mr. Atwal, who was shot twice in the chest, is still in critical condition. The assailants have not been apprehended.
“One thing we can all agree on is that prejudice and discrimination have no place in California,” said Senator Steinberg. “No one should be the victim of a hate crime, no one should be the victim of differential treatment, no on should assume something negative about someone because they follow their religion.”
Many politicians, including Steinberg, donned turbans to express their solidarity with the Sikh American community during this troubling time. Three Sikh American youth, Aman Kaur, Gurjeet Singh, and Jujhar Singh, spoke about their experiences as Sikh American youth.
“Today, we come here partly because of tragedy but leave here with unity. It’s important we learn about each other and that’s why I wore the turban to support you all today,” said California State Senator Doug LaMalfa. “We all have common bonds as part of the American fabric and having that common love is what America is about.”
SALDEF commends the Sacramento Sikh American community for their vigilance in the wake of these tragic attacks as well as leadership in organizing this forum.