Three States declared April as Sikh Awareness month.
The States of Indiana, Delaware, New Jersey and Oregon in the last two months have declared to dedicate the month of April for Sikh cause.
To celebrate the occasion, State lawmakers have appeared on the House floor sporting a colorful headgear with the day’s proceedings starting with traditional Sikh prayer.
At a time when religious and ethnic minorities have been experiencing an increase in hate crimes, the development is likely to give a big boost towards the awareness of Sikhism and Sikh Americans in the country.
Notably, this is not a coordinated effort. Local community leaders are making their own efforts at the State level in this regard.
It all started with Indiana wherein the State Senate on February 20, unanimously passed a resolution recognizing and acknowledging “the significant contributions that Sikhism has made across the United States and to the State of Indiana.”
More than a week later on February 27, Indiana House of Representatives unanimously passed another resolution praising the significant contribution of Sikh Americans in the country.
Indiana has a little over 10,000 Sikh population who own about 3,500 businesses in the State. “Sikhs across Indiana are honored to receive this recognition,” said Gurinder Singh Khalsa, founder and head of the Sikhs American PAC.
After the passage of the resolution, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma said the House proceedings was an opportunity for others, perhaps who are not even aware of exactly who the Sikhs are, to hear a little bit. The Sikh community has been a victim of maltreatment, he acknowledged.
About a month later, the Delaware Governor John Carney in a proclamation declared the Month of April as the Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month. The days day, on March 27, in less than an hour the Delaware House of Representatives and Senate passed separate but similar resolutions to declare April as Sikh Awareness month.
Given that Delaware has a Sikh population of less than a few thousand, the move has special significance as this is for the second consecutive year for both the State Senate and the House along with the Governor to make such a move. “The State of Delaware seeks to further the diversity of its community and afford Delawareans the opportunity to better appreciate the rich history of Sikh Americans,” said the proclamation issued by Carney.
In the House, nearly a dozen state legislatures turned up in wearing a turban as part of their effort to show solidarity with the Sikh community. “Wearing this turban by lawmakers of Delaware shows that we are also part of America,” local Sikh leader Charanjeet Singh Minhas said. Minhas runs a small software company in Delaware and has been working to enhance Sikh awareness in the State. This month he spent several thousand dollars to put a huge billboard on a busy State highway talking about the fifth largest religion of the world.
“Because of these steps the identity and awareness about the Sikh community have increased in the State,” Minhas said.
The same week, the New Jersey State Assembly in a joint resolution declared April of every year as Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month. “The month of April of every year is designated as “Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month” in the State of New Jersey in order to promote public awareness of the Sikh faith, recognize the important contributions of the Sikh community, and combat anti-Sikh bigotry,” said the resolution which was adopted unanimously by both the New Jersey House of Representative and the Senate.
Interestingly, the resolution was drafted by Karanveer Pannu, a second-year Political Science Major at Rutgers University Camden during his internship at the Assemblyman Louis Greenwald. In 2015, he had published a book tackling bullying and stereotypes called, ‘Bullying of Sikh American Children: Through the Eyes of a Sikh American High School Student.”
“At his office, I had the opportunity to prepare the Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month Resolution. I spent hours researching, writing drafts, and editing. Finally, with my effort this resolution was passed unanimously in both the Assembly and the Senate on March 26, 2018,” Karanveer said.
“This resolution now declares April of every year as Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month in hopes of raising awareness of the Sikh Faith and identity in the state of New Jersey thereby reducing bullying of all Sikh Americans,” he said.
And to cap it all, on April 9, the Governor of Oregon, Kate Brown, proclaimed the month of April as Sikh Awareness Month. She has issued a proclamation marking Vaisakhi as the most religiously significant day in the Sikh history that commemorates the creation of Khalsa, and has invited all Oregonians to join Sikhs in observance and celebration of Vaisakhi.
“Adherents of the fifth largest religion in the world, Sikhs, who pursue diverse professions as doctors, engineers, scientists, teacher business owners in Oregon, have made inestimable contributions to the social and economic fabric of Oregon,” Kate wrote in the proclamation presented to the Sikh representatives in Oregon.
“Appreciation of Sikhs in the proclamations intensifies the duties and responsibilities of Sikhs as it is vital that we justify the honor that has been bestowed upon us,” said the chairman of Ghadar Memorial Foundation S Bahadur Singh.