A marginalised Sikh group, which in the past had known supporters of Khalistan, has gained access to the powerful corridors of the Capitol Hill piggybacking on the issue of hate crime that the community is facing in the US.
When more than two dozen lawmakers announced the formation of the first-ever Sikh American Congressional Caucus last week at the Capitol Hill, the presence of a number of individuals and representatives of organisations, who in the past have openly supported Khalistan, raised eyebrows among the friends of India in Washington.
"Sikhs who were present at the Sikh Congressional Caucus event in Washington were of pro-Khalistan ideology," Dalwinder Singh Dhoot, chairman of California-based North America Punjabi Association (NAPA), said in a statement.
A number of eminent Sikh American organisations, including NAPA, were not invited either to the announcement ceremony on April 24 or at the reception held at the Capitol Hill. There was also no representation from the Indian embassy.
"Neither did we have any information about this Caucus nor were we invited to attend the event due to reasons unknown to them (organisers)," NAPA spokesman Satnam Singh Chahal, said, adding that it seemed that the 28 US Congressmen who were its founding members had been "taken for a ride" by this pro-Khalistan group.
"Yes, yes, yes," Chahal told PTI when asked if the Congressmen "have been deceived" by this pro-Khalistan group.
"It is a big mystery as to why the majority of the Sikh community were kept out of this," he said.
The bipartisan Caucus is co-chaired by Congresswoman Judy Chu from the Democratic Party and David Valadao from the Republican Party.
Chu told PTI last week soon after announcing the formation of the group that their focus would be solely on "domestic issues", mainly hate crime and enlisting Sikhs in the US army, and that they would not use this platform for "foreign issues", including the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
However, Sikh supporters of the group, who helped in pulling this together, noted that this is the first step in their larger goal.
"Our objective remains the same, but the path has changed. Now we will pursue our goal through dialogue and debate," a Sikh leader present at the launch had told PTI.
Veteran community leaders told PTI that several of the individuals present at the launch event and at the reception have been blacklisted by India and have had not only supported militancy in Punjab but also had held protests in front of the Indian embassy in support of Khalistan.