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Rediff.com  » News » Resolution condemning Sikh massacre tabled in US Congress

Resolution condemning Sikh massacre tabled in US Congress

September 11, 2012 10:29 IST

In keeping his promise made to rediff.com in an exclusive interview in the immediate aftermath of the horrific massacre of Sikh worshippers at the Oak Creek, Wisconsin gurdwara, that he would push for legislation condemning this carnage as soon as Congress reconvenes after its summer recess, Congressman Ed Royce, California Republican, did just that on the first day the US lawmakers returned to Washington.

Royce, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans and a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, became an original cosponsor of the legislation introduced on Monday to condemn the shooting that killed six innocent people at the gurdwara Wisconsin, on August 5, 2012 by avowed white supremacist and neo-Nazi, Wade Michael Page.

Congress has been out of session since August 3, making September 10, the first day this resolution could be introduced.

The resolution was introduced by Congressman Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, and the GOP vice presidential running mate to the Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Sources told rediff.com that even though Ryan introduced the resolution, dictated by protocol since he was the senior member of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation, it would be Royce who would be the point man in pushing for the approval of this bill, particularly since Ryan was now busy on the campaign trail and is unlikely to attend to much legislative business unless he's called upon to be present in Washington, DC, for important votes.

Royce said, "I'm proud to join Rep Paul Ryan as an original co-sponsor of bipartisan legislation denouncing this act of terror against the Sikh community in Wisconsin."

"Since the tragic events that unfolded in early August, I have had a number of opportunities to visit Sikh temples across Orange County.  This attack shook the Sikh community throughout the United States," he said.

Royce said it was imperative that "we must educate the public, letting them know of the commitment to service, equality, and tolerance embedded in Sikhism." 

While acknowledging that "the resolution might not offer consolation to those haunted by that violent attack," the lawmaker noted that "it does display our commitment to religious tolerance."

Royce pointed out that "because the attack took place while Congress was out of session, today is the first opportunity to introduce this resolution. I will press to quickly bring the bill to the floor for a vote." 

The resolution in condemning the shooting that "killed six innocent people at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, on August 5, 2012, resolved that the US House of Representatives "condemns the senseless attack," and "offers condolences to the families, friends, and loved ones who were killed in the attack and expresses hope for the full recovery of those injured in the attack."

It also said, the US House of Representatives "honours the selfless, dedicated service of (a) the emergency response teams and law enforcement officials who responded to the attack; and (b) law enforcement officials who continue to investigate the attack."

The resolution also said the US Congress "remains hopeful, as additional details regarding the attack are gathered, that the citizens of this country will come together, united in a shared desire for peace and justice while standing with the Sikh community to grieve the loss of life."

In its pre-amble, the resolution also praised the "many individuals and members of the Sikh community who selflessly sought to aid and protect others above their own safety," and also showered kudos for the "quick action of law enforcement officials," that it said, "prevented additional losses of life."

In the interview with rediff.com, following the massacre, Royce vowed to demand answers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation as to how this massacre of innocent Sikh worshipers could have happened in a gurdwara when Page had been on radar of hate-watch groups for over a decade.

Royce also pledged that immediately Congress reconvenes after the summer recess, he would move for a Congressional resolution condemning this horrific carnage against these innocent Sikhs and introduce legislation to protect this community from such attacks in the future because of their particular identity in keeping with their religious beliefs -- namely wearing a turban and growing a beard -- which has led to them being racially profiled and subject to hate crimes, especially after 9/11.

He said, "In the coming days, I'll be watching the FBI's investigation closely to see what steps need to be taken, and if mistakes were made -- because some initial reports indicate that this man was on the radar screen previously -- and if so, how this was allowed to happen."

"We all want answers. I'll also be listening closely to the Sikh community and to their needs," he added.

Royce said, it is clear that "from this music -- the music that comes from these types of racist white power bands -- are incredibly violent and they talk about murdering Jews, and murdering black people, and murdering gay people, and a whole host of other 'enemies.'"

Royce, who said, he would definitely move a resolution condemning the attack, said beyond that the legislation he would introduce would be a template of legislation he had gotten approved in the California legislature many years ago to protect congregations.

"I passed legislation in California to protect parishioners, or I should say, congregations from attacks on churches and temples and synagogues, and the focus was on the threats that some were making to people."

Royce recalled that the legislation "criminalised those threats against those who worship and that legislation was upheld by the state Supreme Court. So, in California, we have a method where if someone threatened a temple, law enforcement would be able to respond and that individual would be committing a crime by threatening those who go to that temple."

He explained, "The intent was to broaden the focus of the law so that one did not have to wait until an individual carried out an attack. In other words, the concept was just like the anti-stalker legislation, which was another bill of mine, where the concept was to allow law enforcement to better monitor individuals who were making the threats and to have a nexus or a connection or have, I should say, a law under which they could be prosecuted and law enforcement could get involved before and actual attack occurred, on the basis of the threat -- a credible threat -- an individual would make."

The lawmaker said he would also like to see a comprehensive investigation "to see what his (Page's) background was in the US Army because we know he was given a discharge from the army for misconduct."

"What was the nature of that misconduct and to see if that would fall within any of the categories," that prohibit certain individuals to purchase a firearm, "because the goal is to see, since he was on the radar screen previously, how was this allowed to happen and how could this be tightened to prevent such situations."
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC