Washington, May 11 (IANS) Ami Bera, the lone Indian-American lawmaker, has joined the newly formed American Sikh Congressional Caucus, saying he was solely motivated by concerns about incidents of hate crimes against the community.
Indian officials had pressed Bera and some other US lawmakers not to join the Sikh caucus because of the presence of some alleged pro-Khalistan activists among its supporters.
“I’m a proud member of the Congressional Caucus on India, and any matters involving India, or US-India relations should and will be handled by that group,” said the House member from California, who was under pressure from the Indian lobby not to join the grouping for its supporters’ alleged links with separatist Khalistanis.
“The American Sikh Caucus’ work will deal with domestic civil rights issues,” he said. “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 suspected hate crime.”
Six Sikh worshippers were killed by a white supremacist gunman in a shootout at a Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, last August.
“Violence and discrimination against the Sikh American community is a real and important civil rights issue in the US,” Bera said.
“That’s why I co-sponsored strong anti-hate crimes legislation earlier this year, and that’s why I joined the ‘American Sikh Congressional Caucus’, to work on civil rights issues here in America,” he said.
“Sadly,” said Bera, “just this week there was another reminder of the importance of these issues in America, when a Sikh man was brutally attacked in Fresno, not far from my district.”
“We must work together as a country of diverse cultures, faiths, and beliefs to end these senseless acts of violence and find understanding and peace. These are the issues the American Sikh Congressional Caucus will work on,” he said.
More than 30 House members have joined the Sikh caucus announced April 24 by Democrat Judy Chu and Republican David Valadao, both from California, who co-chair the grouping.
Many of them are also members of the 186-member strong India Caucus, which is the largest country specific group in the US Congress.
But at its April 24 launch the promoters of the caucus did not make any mention of Khalistan, confining their agenda to domestic civic rights and discrimination issues.