Sikh-American nominated as New Jersey’s attorney general
If confirmed, Gurbir S Grewal will be first Indian American Sikh to hold the coveted position.world Updated: Dec 14, 2017 10:22 IST
Gurbir S Grewal, a Democratic county prosecutor in New Jersey state, will make history as the first Indian American Sikh to hold the position of attorney general in the US if his nomination announced on Tuesday is confirmed.
“New Jersey needs an attorney general with a steel backbone, one that will stand up for New Jersey against everything coming our way from Washington,” Phil Murphy, the governor-elect of New Jersey said while announcing Grewal’s nomination as his attorney general, a cabinet-rank position, at a news conference.
Grewal, serving as prosecutor in New Jersey’s Bergen county, will have to be confirmed by the state senate, which is expected to be a mere formality. As Murphy said in a tweet, “If confirmed, he will be the first Sikh-American attorney general in American history.”
“The American dream is alive and well in New Jersey,” Grewal, 44, said at the news conference. As attorney general, he will be the state’s top cop and top prosecutor.
His appointment is more than a landmark for him personally and the community of an estimated 500,000 people. It will give the community the kind of visibility it has needed to overcome bias and discrimination it has suffered due to a lack of awareness about Sikhs, their religion and the turbans worn by the men.
Grewal made that point at the news conference. “I wanted to give back to a country that has given us and other immigrant families like us so much. And in the process, I wanted to perhaps also show people that while I and others like me may look different or worship differently, that we, too, are committed to this country.
“And second,” he added, turning to his three daughters who were present, “as someone who has experienced hate and intolerance first-hand throughout my life, I wanted to work to ensure we all live in and that the three of you grow up in a fair and just society.”
Grewal was twice appointed prosecutor of Bergen county by outgoing governor Chris Christie, a Republican. Grewal didn’t get a confirmation hearing the first time, but went through on the next attempt.
He was an assistant US attorney before that in New Jersey, in which capacity his many successful prosecutions include a case in which 12 men were charged with providing material support to the Tamil Tigers, a terrorist group that had plunged Sri Lanka into a decades-long conflict and which assassinated former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Sim Singh, of the Sikh Coalition, an organisation working to increase awareness about the community, said in a statement about Grewal’s appointment, “While breaking down barriers for the next generation of Sikh leaders he is reminding all Americans that diversity is our nation’s greatest strength.”
Sikhs have suffered bias and discrimination, especially in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks after being mistaken for West Asians — the first victim of the backlash was a Sikh man in Arizona, who was killed by a man seeking to avenge the deaths in the attacks.
Ravinder S Bhalla, who was recently elected mayor of Hoboken, also in New Jersey, was called a terrorist in campaign flyers.