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US lawmaker steps up effort against Sikh, Hindu hate crime

February 21, 2013 10:20 IST

United States Congressman Joe Crowley, who is the co-chair of Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, has launched a major effort among lawmakers asking the department of justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to track the hate crimes committed against Sikhs, Hindus and Arab Americans.

So far more than 40 Congressmen have signed onto the letter addressed to the department of justice and the FBI, with lawmakers Judy Chu, Eliot Engel, Bill Pascrell, Adam Schiff, Gary Peters, Tulsi Gabbard, Ami Bera, Michael Honda, and Eric Swalwell being the original signatories.

"When you hear about Hindus targeted for wearing a 'bindi' or 'tilak' or Sikh boys and men living in fear of attack simply because they wear a turban, it's time to say enough is enough and take action. Groups from India aren't the only ones targeted for their faith, but I can tell you the Indian-American community is deeply disturbed by what is going on," Crowley told PTI.

"They want action, and they want it now. At the very least, they want the government to collect comprehensive data and respond to threats," said Crowley, who is spearheading the letter demanding collection of data on hate crimes against the three communities.

Crowley is asking his fellow members of Congress to join him in sending this letter because the time has come to start documenting hate crimes against these three groups, so that the crimes can be stopped once and for all.

"We would like to respectfully express our strong support for adding three new categories to the FBI's Hate Crime Statistics Act data collection mandate -- anti-Sikh, anti-Hindu and anti-Arab hate crimes. Unfortunately, there is a specific, demonstrated need for hate crime data for each of these three categories," said the letter on circulation.

"We are in favor of such a move in part because many Congressional offices have heard from constituents and leaders in the Sikh, Hindu and Arab-American communities about their ongoing fear of being the victim of a hate crime," it said.

"This fear is a result of demonstrable and specific violent threats and attacks. For example, a man attempted to firebomb a Hindu Temple in New York on New Year's Day, 2012. In December 2012, a Hindu man whose attacker said she hated Hindus and Muslims was shoved in front of an oncoming subway train, resulting in his death," the letter said.

The letter also mentioned the incident in which two Sikh men in Sacramento were killed and another in New York was brutally attacked.

"We understand that, at present, the FBI does not collect specific information about these categories of hate violence, which may at times be recorded as anti-Muslim bias motivation. However, evidence suggests that all too many crimes are committed against these groups because of their religious or national identity, and not because they are confused with Muslims," according to the letter.

In a statement, the Indian American Forum for Political Education  announced to join the campaign and asked lawmakers, in particular members of the India Caucus to sign the letter spearheaded by Crowley.

"We would request the department of justice to ask the Federal Bureau of Investigation to begin collecting data on hate crimes committed against Hindus, Sikhs and other minority communities of Indian origin," said Dr Sampat Shivangi, national president of the Forum.

"IAFPE wants to reach the rest of the US congress and US senate to bring these issues in the forefront and to make the Indian American community to join these efforts in re-focusing our efforts on this burning and very unfortunate issue that we are confronting," he said.

Lalit K Jha