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'Sikhs in America' to check hate crime
IANS
Sacramento (California), February 01, 2008
First Published: 13:07 IST(1/2/2008)
Last Updated: 18:44 IST(1/2/2008)

The US Public Broadcasting System (PBS) has produced a documentary on American Sikhs to create awareness about the community traumatised by post 9/11 racial attacks.

Called "Sikhs in America", the half-hour documentary captures their culture, spiritual beliefs, social ceremonies, martial arts, the game of kabbadi and the Yuba City Sikh Parade.

Releasing it here, channel president David Hosley said "Sikhs in America" would teach mainstream Americans about the community.

Although Sikhs have been in the US for over 100 years, few Americans know anything about them, he lamented.

Jasbir Singh Kang, founder member of Yuba City Punjabi American Heritage Society that mooted and partly funded the documentary, recalled how they persuaded the PBS to do the documentary to raise awareness about American Sikhs.

"We needed a mainstream network to project us. Since PBS is a respected national network, I made a presentation to Hosley four years ago. He agreed to do this documentary on the basis of that presentation."

Marissa Aroy of Berkeley-based Media Factory, which produced the documentary, told IANS: "Before my partner Niall McKay and I started filming it, we saw all programmes on American Sikhs. All related to hate crimes after 9/11.

"We didn't want to add one more to them. Instead, we decided to present their (Sikhs) contemporary picture to Americans."

Although her crew were given only five days to complete the shooting, they took 25 to delve deeper and know the community better, she said. "It is a portrait of what it means to be a Sikh in the US today," she said.

Although shot in Sacramento, Freemont, and Livingston in northern California, the documentary mostly centres on Yuba City, which is known as a Punjabi village in America.

The camera follows Sikh families through daily life - how they share a meal and pray together at home, how they participate in Sunday prayers at gurdwaras, how they celebrate Yuba City Sikh Parade, how they keep their martial arts alive and how a young Sikh wears his uncut hair and ties his turban.

"It features a Sikh wedding and a game of kabbadi to show their cultural and athletic side," Aroy said.

On the negative side, she added, it shows how they still practice the caste system despite religious injunctions against it.

The documentary was telecast Wednesday in northern California by PBS's local affiliate known as KVIE. Soon it will be telecast across America by other PBS affiliates.

"'Sikhs in America' is a great educational tool. I hope it will create awareness and stop mistaken hate crimes against Sikhs," said Kang, whom the channel had honoured as an unsung hero in 2006 for his community work.


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