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Sikh caucus gets shot in the arm

The newly formed American Sikh Congressional Caucus, which is under a cloud over alleged backing from some pro-Khalistan elements, got a shot in the arm as Ami Bera, the only Indian American in US Congress, signed up for the caucus. Yashwant Raj reports.

world Updated: May 08, 2013 00:51 IST
Yashwant Raj

The newly formed American Sikh Congressional Caucus, which is under a cloud over alleged backing from some pro-Khalistan elements, got a shot in the arm as Ami Bera, the only Indian American in US Congress, signed up for the caucus.

The caucus, which was inaugurated on April 24, aims to tackle problems faced by the community such as hate crimes, school bullying, and discrimination in enlisting due to a ban on turban.

Bera, a California Democrat whose family came from Gujarat, was being claimed by both sides, especially after his name was not there on the list of members announced at the launch.

The pro-Sikh caucus group claimed that he was one of the 30 legislators who had signed up.

The other side, including Indian officials, were confident he hadn't. Bera's family came here from Gujarat, and, was seen as a deal in the bag by those who had pointed out the Khalistan connection of some of the prime backers of the caucus. But he clearly wasn't.

"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," Bera said in a statement to Hindustan Times.

"Violence and discrimination against the Sikh American community is a real and important civil rights issue in the US. That's why I co-sponsored strong anti-hate crimes legislation earlier this year and joined the American Sikh Congressional Caucus," he said.

That's pretty much in line with the stated objectives of the caucus, as laid out by its co-founders representatives Judy Chu and David Valadao at its launch.

To end military discrimination preventing American Sikhs from enlisting due to a ban on turbans.
Violence against American Sikhs in the wake of 9/11 terror attacks.
Bullying experienced by as many as three in every four Sikh boys.
Racial profiling due to well-intentioned but misguided law enforcement policies.
Employment discrimination.

Politically, Ami Bera comes from a state that has the highest population of American Sikhs. In fact, a large number of the 30 members of the caucus are from California. Losing Bera, it's being pointed out, could also be a sign of India's steadily waning clout on the Hill, from the heady days of the India-US civilian nuclear deal in 2008.

Although HT tried to contact some pro-Khalistan elements who backed the caucus from outside, they either declined to answer questions or were not available for comment.