Leaders of the community criticised for ignoring threat for too long

The Sunday shootout at a gurdwara in the United States that claimed six lives has invited sharp reactions from various Punjabi and Sikh organisations, especially from North America. They criticised the U.S. administration as well as the Indian government for allegedly ignoring security concerns that were voiced repeatedly.

President of the California-based North American Punjabi Association (NAPA) president Satnam Singh Chahal, in a statement issued here, said the Oak Creek Gurdwara killings were direct fallout of the apathy shown by the US administration in punishing those involved in hate crimes that targeted Sikhs. The incident exposed the discrimination within the law enforcing agencies in the U.S. that created a sense of insecurity among Sikhs, who have often been confused with operatives or supporters of al-Qeada.

Mr. Chahal narrated incidents on a “daily basis” where he was “honked at” on the road.

He also blamed the Indian government for not exerting adequate pressure on the U.S. to ensure the Sikh community’s safety, which came under attack after 9/11.

He also criticised leaders of the community, for ignoring the threat for too long and not having initiated any campaign to generate awareness about the identity of Sikhs and their difference from other communities that sport turbans. “While millions of dollars can be splurged or wasted in prolonged litigation, the funds collected at the Sikh shrines were never utilised to protect the interests of the community,” he said.

The U.S. chapter of the coalition of groups and individuals, United Sikhs, while condemning the incident, emphasised need for a task force to work with law enforcement agencies in the U.S. to ensure that the community is reassured of its safety. It appealed to the community to be vigilant, more alert and step up security without causing an alarm. At the same time, it called upon the interfaith community to show solidarity by holding prayer vigils in places of worship.

President of the Indian Overseas Congress Vikram Bajwa and Federation of Indian Associations chairperson Romesh Japra expressed concern over a “Sikh temple” being made a target of “domestic terrorism.” They sought a coordinated effort, involving the governments and law enforcement agencies of the U.S. and India, as well as special inputs from Punjab, to prevent recurrence of such incidents.