iNDICA NEWS BUREAU-
The Oak Creek massacre that took place in 2012 at a gurdwara still haunts many Sikh community members who lost their loved ones.
On Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012, an avowed white supremacist named Wade Michael Page approached the gurdwara with a 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun, and killed six people and injured four others before taking his own life.
This incident highlighted the ongoing racial animosity towards minorities, especially the Sikh community. After this, community members and organizations like the Sikh Coalition has been constantly advocating better laws to protect the community and been pushing for several changes.
After almost ten years, the community members are still fighting for permeant changes in the US laws to protect religious and other minority institutions.
On Feb. 17, 2022, Pardeep Singh Kaleka, the son of Satwant Singh Kaleka, who was one of 7 who was killed during the terrorist attack urged Biden admin to pass laws to protect minorities from racial violence.
Pardeep who is a former police officer, educator, and trauma clinician, currently serves as the Executive Director of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee.
Pardeep testified before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security in a hearing entitled The Rise in Violence Against Minority Institutions.
During his testimony, he narrated the events of the fateful day through his perspective and said that he still believes in the country to make things right for the generations to come.
“Rather than turning inward in anguish and anger, we chose to believe that this country, its ideals, and its promise are worth fighting for,” said Pardeep.
The Sikh Coalition which has already submitted its own report on the need for policy change to Congress, worked with Kaleka on his testimony and preparation.
“It was a privilege to come before the subcommittee and share my experience and recommendations as we work together to combat hate against our communities,” Pardeep is quoted saying in the press release from Sikh Coalition.
Pardeep is the Executive Director of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee. “As I said in my testimony, we must take immediate action to protect communities like ours, through new laws, more federal resources, and local-level work,” he added.
In his testimony Pardeep focused on the impact of the horrific Oak Creek event on him and his family, alleging there was an ongoing threat of white supremacy to the Sikh community in the country, and on other minority communities. He also included some policy prescriptions for the federal government to address the issue.
Pradeep has been a part several initiatives after the incident in creating an awareness in the last ten years.
He noted that, despite these best efforts, “hate continues to threaten too many minority communities in our country. A Black church was attacked in South Carolina. Synagogues were assaulted in Pennsylvania, California, and Texas. Masjids have been targeted for vandalism, arson, and violence across the country. And individuals–from these communities and still others–are increasingly targeted in hate crimes year after year. All of this comes from of a toxic mix of racism, xenophobia, anti-Semetism, Islamophobia, and white supremacy”, he said.
Pardeep spoke in favor of the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, which will give the federal government the tools to counter domestic extremism, and the Justice for Victims of Hate Crimes Act, which will close a loophole in how hate crimes are prosecuted at the federal level. He also advocated for increased federal funding for securing houses of worship, as well as improvements in how the federal government tracks hate crimes and bias incidents.
The Sikh Coalition plans to launch commemorative events at the local and national level going forward to the tenth anniversary of the Oak Creek tragedy, the organization said.
“We can do many things, but only if we are willing to work together in pursuit of prevention and safety through a whole-of-society approach. As a father who is fighting to make a better world for my children, that is my wish–and that is why, above all else”, he ended his testimony.