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US justice dept supports Sikhs, Hindus as hate crime victims

May 16, 2013 16:01 IST

Meeting one of the long pending demands of Sikhs and Hindus in the United States, Attorney General Eric Holder has recommended widening the Federal Bureau of Investigation's mandate to include the two communities among victims of growing hate crimes.

Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Holder said he made this recommendation to the Advisory Policy Board of the FBI to make the necessary changes in the Uniform Crime Reporting in this regard.

"The (justice) department recommended to what's called the Advisory Policy Board last year that the UCR be amended to include anti-Sikh, anti-Hindu, anti-Arab, anti-Middle Eastern categories in the ethnicity or race section," Holder said.

"That board is supposed to meet again in June, where it will consider those potential changes before they make them to the FBI director. But it would be my strong recommendation that the form be modified so that it captures anti-Sikh, anti-Muslim, anti-Middle Eastern violence," the Attorney General said.

Holder was responding to questions from California Congresswoman Judy Chu, who recently announced the formation of the first ever American Sikh Congressional Caucus.

Chu recounted last week's vicious attack on 82-year-old Piara Singh who was beaten with an iron bar, puncturing one of his lungs, fracturing his face and breaking several ribs.

She said this was only the latest of a string of attacks on American Sikhs in recent years.

"In the last two years alone, two elderly Sikhs were murdered in Elk Grove, California; a Sikh cab driver was assaulted in Sacramento, California; a Sikh transit worker was assaulted in New York City; a Sikh cab driver was assaulted in Seattle, Washington; a Sikh business owner was shot and injured in Port Orange, Florida; and six Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, were murdered, of course, in one of the worst attacks in an American place of worship since the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church," Chu said.

Chu said the FBI tracks hate crimes on its Form 1699.

"There is no current way to document hate crimes against Sikhs on this form, even though Sikh Americans continue to experience hate crimes at rates that are disproportionate to their population," she said.

Arab Americans and Hindu Americans also face hate crimes, but they too are excluded from tracking.

"If someone were to look at FBI data today, it would be as though Sikhs, Arab-Americans and Hindus did not exist," Chu said.

Lalit K Jha
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