Stockton Sikhs Partner With DOJ For “Waking in Oak Creek” Special Screening September 28, 2015 Admin

Stockton Sikhs Partner With DOJ For “Waking in Oak Creek” Special Screening

Stockton Sikhs Partner With DOJ For “Waking in Oak Creek” Special Screening Film commemorating Wisconsin gurdwara shootings draws tears, applause from a crowd of students, Sikhs, and community leaders at University of the Pacific

Stockton, CA: “Hate doesn’t discriminate, but love conquers all hate,”” concluded Bhajan Singh in a panel discussion after a special screening of “Waking in Oak Creek” hosted at University of the Pacific’s Janet Leigh Theatre on Wednesday night.

A diverse audience turned out to view the film, which drew tears and applause as it documented the transformation of Oak Creek, Wisconsin after an August 2012 shooting by a white supremacist claimed the lives of six Sikhs. Local Sikh families filled the theatre, rubbing shoulders with students and members of local and federal law-enforcement agencies. As the audience dried their eyes at the conclusion of the film, panelists including United States Attorney Benjamin Wagner engaged in a short discussion and fielded questions.

Stockton Sikhs Partner With DOJ For “Waking in Oak Creek” Special Screening

Other leaders from Stockton Gurdwara, the oldest Sikh-American institution, who attended included President Racinder Singh, Daljit Singh, Manjit Brar, and former president Manjit Singh Uppal.

In response to one viewer’s question about how to prevent similar hate-crimes, Wagner said, “”There are always going to be hate-filled people out there.” One interesting moment in the film was when the former white supremacist talked about how he changed his beliefs when people reached out to him with acts of kindness even though they were people he disliked.” Referring to the AME Church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, he explained that many people who commit racial hate-crimes desire to spark a race-war. ““What people don’t expect,” he said, “”is the kind of unity that results.”

What is Diversity?

“”From the Black Lives Matter movement, the sufferings of Native Americans, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Aurora, the 9/11 attacks, and now the Oak Creek Gurdwara shooting, we have learned that all life is equally precious,”” said Bhajan Singh, Public Relations Officer for Stockton Gurdwara. Asked how to react after such incidents, he responded, “”When we react to shootings and hate crimes, I think what is missing is consistency. What is diversity and why does it matter needs to be household table-talk.””

FBI Special Agent Robert Tripp stated: “”Hate crime is the FBI’s number one civil rights priority.”” Noting their ability to prevent crimes is limited because they cannot investigate beliefs, but only suspicious behaviors, he emphasized the need for building strong and united communities as the best prevention. Audience members agreed as Wagner pointed out: “A lot of hatred comes from misunderstanding and misunderstanding comes from ignorance.” Discussing the duties of law-enforcement, San Joaquin County District Assistant District Attorney Ronald Freitas said, “We are bound by the Constitution that all men and women are created equal.”

Stockton Sikhs Partner With DOJ For “Waking in Oak Creek” Special Screening

The panel included Bhajan Singh, Benjamin Wagner (US Attorney), Eric Jones (Stockton Police Chief), Robert Tripp (FBI Special Agent), and Ronald Freitas (San Joaquin County Assistant District Attorney).

Hosted by Community Leaders

The panel included Bhajan Singh (Public Relations Officer for Stockton Gurdwara), Benjamin Wagner (US Attorney), Eric Jones (Stockton Police Chief), Robert Tripp (FBI Special Agent), and Ronald Freitas (San Joaquin County Assistant District Attorney). Other leaders from Stockton Gurdwara, the oldest Sikh-American institution, who attended included President Racinder Singh, Daljit Singh, Manjit Brar, and former president Manjit Singh Uppal. The American Punjabi Chamber of Commerce was represented by Mike Boparai.

Concluding the night with a meal hosted by the university’’s Dean of Religious Life, Joel Lohr, the audience departed with the words of Pardeep Kaleka, eldest son of Oak Creek victim Satwant Singh Kaleka, echoing in their ears: “”As you leave today, be awake.””

“Waking in Oak Creek” is a documentary produced by Not In Our Town and the U.S. Departments of Justice COPS Office. It depicts how, as the Sikh community in Oak Creek, Wisconsin prepares for Sunday prayers, a deadly hate attack shatters their lives, but not their resilience. After six worshipers are killed by a white supremacist, the local community finds inspiration in the Sikh tradition of forgiveness and faith. Lieutenant Murphy, shot 15 times in the attack, joins the mayor and police chief as they forge new bonds with the Sikh community. Young temple members, still grieving, emerge as leaders in the quest to end the violence. In the year following the tragedy, thousands gather for vigils and community events to honor the victims and seek connection. Together, a community rocked by hate is awakened and transformed by the Sikh spirit of relentless optimism.

Patrons of Sikh Caucus Request U.S. Congress To Speak For Surat Singh Khalsa

As patrons of the American Sikh Congressional Caucus, and members of the community the caucus represents, we urge the 42 U.S. representatives who belong to the caucus to recognize and represent the interests of the Sikh-American community by acknowledging the democratic protest of Californian Sikh Surat Singh Khalsa, a permanent resident of the United States who is on hunger-strike in Punjab, India to demand release of political prisoners.

Khalsa, like many Sikhs in the United States, came here as a refugee from political and religious persecution by the Indian State. He quit his job as a government teacher in June 1984 after the government launched an invasion of the Sikh Golden Temple that resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent Sikh pilgrims. After the state-sponsored genocide against Sikhs expanded in November 1984, when the ruling party armed, funded, and guided the systematic slaughter of thousands of Sikh men, women, and children in the streets of India’s capital city, Khalsa began participating in peaceful protests against the government’s policy of genocide. He was wounded when police opened fire on a demonstration outside the Punjab Legislative Assembly in 1986 and subsequently decided to flee India for the United States. He came here legally, and his children and grandchildren became citizens, but he never forgot the atrocities committed against his fellow Sikhs.

In January, Khalsa traveled to Punjab to begin a hunger-strike. His demand is for release of political prisoners who are mostly dissidents arrested for protesting the Sikh Genocide and related events. The prisoners have completed their sentences but are being denied release because of the political nature of their charges.

Since January 16, Khalsa has refused all food. He was arrested and force-fed for 74 days (February 8 to April 23), but after pressure from seven California congressional representatives, he was released without charges and has now been without sustenance for the past month. His family reports from India that he has lost the ability to walk or even talk. In his democratic protest by abstention, Khalsa joins the ranks of other human rights activists in India like Irom Sharmila and Bhagat Singh. His struggle was undertaken as a method of expressing peaceful dissent and exercising the natural human liberty to free expression and consequently we urge you to recognize his honorable choice.

Considering a caucus exists to pursue common legislative goals in service to a specific community, we insist that the most urgent priority of the American Sikh Congressional Caucus must be to speak for Surat Singh Khalsa. His struggle is mobilizing and inspiring the Sikh community all around the world and if the Sikh Caucus claims to represent the interests of the Sikh people, then it cannot continue to ignore this issue. We want the Sikh Caucus to stand up for their constituents who have brothers and sisters that are suffering in India and who are deeply concerned for the welfare of their global community, especially including U.S. permanent resident Surat Singh Khalsa. A number of Sikh Caucus members joined the bipartisan House Resolution 417 introduced in 2013 by Reps. Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Keith Ellison (D-MI), but the caucus unfortunately missed the opportunity to make the resolution part of its agenda despite broad national support for it from the Sikh-American community. We hope you can redeem this opportunity to speak for Surat Singh Khalsa.

We appeal to you speak out so that Khalsa’s self-sacrifice for the sake of the human rights of Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, and the oppressed classes of India will not go unrecognized. Please contact U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry immediately to request he appeal for the release of Indian political prisoners. We suggest that no other issue should take precedence for the Sikh Caucus since, after all, the name only fits if the caucus represents the interests of the community by whose name it calls itself.

Patrons of the Sikh Caucus is a nonpartisan group who want their congressional representatives to boldly speak out about Sikh issues of true interest to the Sikh-American community, both domestic and international and specifically including human rights issues in India, and who urge the Sikh Caucus to request these issues be adopted into the agendas of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.

Affirmed by the following:

Organization for Minorities of India ( |
Sikh Information Centre (CA)
Fateh Sports Club (CA)
Gurdwara Sahib West Sacramento (CA)
Gurdwara Sahib Stockton (CA)
Turlock Sikh Gurdwara (CA)
Gurdwara Sahib Roseville (CA)
Sikh Temple Riverside (CA)
Gurdwara Dasmesh Darbar Tracy (CA)
Capital Sikh Center Sacramento (CA)
The membership of the American Sikh Congressional Caucus consist of (and we encourage you to call them and ask them to “Speak for Surat Singh Khalsa”):

Judy Chu (co-chair)
John Garamendi (co-chair)
Karen Bass
Ami Bera
Robert Brady
Gerry Connolly
John Conyers
Jim Costa
Sam Farr
Al Green
Raúl Grijalva
Janice Hahn
Rush Holt
Mike Honda
Hank Johnson
Barbara Lee
Zoe Lofgren
Carolyn Maloney
Doris Matsui
Jerry McNerney
Grace Meng
George Miller
Frank Pallone
Bill Pascrell
Gary Peters
Jan Schakowsky
Brad Sherman
Adam Smith
Jackie Speier
Eric Swalwell
Mark Takano
Mike Thompson
Henry Waxman
Chris Van Hollen

David Valadao (co-chair)
Patrick L Meehan (co-chair)
Jeff Denham
Joe Heck
Doug LaMalfa
Devin Nunes
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Tom McClintock

[If you would like to add your organization to the list affirming this statement, please contact us at 1-888-551-SIKH or]

100th Anniversary of Armenian Genocide Illustrates Vulnerability of Minorities

 Impunity for state-sponsored ethnic cleansing began with the 20th-century’s first major genocide

“Nationalism of one kind or another was the cause of most of the genocide of the twentieth century. Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s minds and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead.” — Arundhati Roy

The month of April 2015 marks one hundred years since the beginning of the Armenian Genocide, a multi-year, state-sponsored ethnic cleansing of non-Muslims, especially the 3,000-year-old Armenian community, from the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

As the 20th century’s first systematic and targeted slaughter of a specific people group, the atrocity inspired the coining of the term “genocide.” Blanket impunity for the Armenian Genocide, which left a calculated 1.5 million or more Armenian Christians (as well as members of other minority communities living in the Ottoman Empire), dead at the hands of state actors, set the stage for modern struggles to hold the powerful accountable for their oppression of the weak. Many communities have since suffered similarly horrifying genocides at the hands of the State, most notably the Jewish people subjugated and eliminated by the Nazi regime in Europe.

While the Nazis were punished and are today excoriated for their crimes, more modern genocides perpetrated against minority religious communities in South Asia, especially against Sikhs in 1984 and Muslims in 2002, bear striking similarities to the Armenian Genocide as the perpetrators have received not only impunity but actual reward, promotion, and increased power as a result of dipping their hands in the blood of innocents.

“Preventing future genocides requires acknowledging past genocides,” remarked Sikh Information Centre Founder Bhajan Singh, who has spent over 30 years working to secure liberty for South Asian minorities. “The first step to achieving justice is recognizing a crime was committed, and so, 100 years after the terror of the Armenian Genocide began, we must cry out for justice by refusing to forget the blood that was spilled. Like the Jewish Holocaust and the Sikh Genocide, the Armenian Genocide has its own deniers, and the one attribute they all share is a lust for power, control, and supremacy. Although the victims of these genocides come from diverse and distinct communities, one thing that unites us all is our suffering. As we pursue healing through justice and reconciliation, we need to link arms and work together collaboratively to achieve our common goal.”

The Armenian Genocide officially began on April 24, 1915 (known today as “Red Sunday”) with the arrest of approximately 250 of the most prominent Armenian public figures — clergy, journalists, poets, teachers, attorneys, businessmen, and statesmen — from their homes in Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Those arrested were imprisoned, held without charges or trial, and most killed in custody. Red Sunday resulted in the decapitation of the community leadership of the Armenian people.

Some of the Armenian community leaders killed after “Red Sunday” of April 24, 1915.
Subsequently, the ruling party passed the “Temporary Law of Deportation,” using national security as an excuse to label non-Turks as enemies of the state and organize their liquidation. The State began rounding up all Armenians and forcing them to death march hundreds of miles across the desert, usually without food or water, to a network of 25 concentration camps. There they were starved to death or simply slaughtered and then buried, tens of thousands at a time, in mass graves. Armenians who were not deported were murdered by death squads who, according to, “drowned people in rivers, threw them off cliffs, crucified them and burned them alive.” In many cases, Armenian women were raped and forced into harems or taken as slaves, while children were kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam.


The goal of the genocide, which lasted until 1923, was the creation of an artificially homogenous population. That is, the ruling party sought to fabricate the Ottoman Empire as an ethnically-pure land of Turks through the practice of state-sponsored racial and religious supremacy. By the early 1920s, when the killings had mostly ended, the Ottoman Empire’s original population of two million Armenians was reduced to just 388,000. Today, historians, human rights organizations, and governments around the world generally acknowledge the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians. As of the centennial of the tragedy’s genesis, 26 countries have officially recognized the genocide.

On Friday, April 24, 2015, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, Germany (which was allied with the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and many of whose troops peripherally assisted or at least observed the killing) became the latest country to recognize and condemn the atrocity. As Germany’s Bundestag (lower house of parliament) passed a resolution acknowledging the genocide, Bundestag President Norbert Lammert stated:

“Our obligation is to bear accountability. The Germans, from their own familiarity, call upon others to face their own history, even if it is painful; this is the condition for reconciliation between the Armenian and Turkish nations.

“The Germans, who placed alliance with the Ottoman Empire above human lives, had their own guilt in this genocide.

“History compels to remember historical facts. It is inevitable that there can be no real peace as long as the descendants of the victims demand justice.”

To this day and to its great discredit, the government of Turkey refuses to recognize the genocide perpetrated by its predecessor state, the Ottoman Empire. Indeed, Turkish law even criminalizes referring to the events that began in 1915 as “genocide.” While the Armenians of yesteryear were (prior to their elimination) subjected to denials of religious liberty through laws imposing social and political restrictions on non-Muslims, the Turks of today are subjected to denials of free speech.

Remarking on genocide denial, Sikh Information Centre Executive Director Pieter Friedrich said, “An attitude that denies the reality of genocide perpetuates the divide between cultures. Social instability is aggravated and even sparked by the sentiments of people who, for their own selfish political or religious purposes, seek to deny the responsibility of the State to answer for atrocities it sponsors. The future of peace on Earth requires a communal mourning over the deaths and injustices inflicted on innocents by the ruling elite. Commemorating the tragic truth of the Armenian Genocide is the first small step towards achieving peace in a tumultuous world.”

While the Armenian Genocide has gained wide recognition among the world’s nation-states, Sikh Information Centre has found inspiration in the example of the Armenian diaspora to join a number of Indian diaspora groups, including American Sikh Political Action Committee and Organization for Minorities of India, to secure recognition of the 1984 Sikh Genocide and other atrocities in India by Western municipal and state governments.

On March 10, the Central Californian City of Stockton, home to the oldest permanent settlement of Sikh-Americans, passed a proclamation condemning the 1984 Sikh Genocide, with Mayor Anthony Silva declaring: “We commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1984 genocide as we recognize the ongoing impact of the genocide for the Sikhs around the world and our city.” California’s State Assembly followed suit on April 16, unanimously adopting a resolution to remember the “1984 anti-Sikh pogroms,” making it the first state or national government in the world to formally acknowledge the tragic event.

Sikh Community leaders pose with City Council of Stockon, CA after accepting 1984 Sikh Genocide Proclamation.