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What will the American Sikh Caucus do?

May 10, 2013 09:39 IST

Ami Bera, the only Indian-American Congressman in the US House of Representatives, has said that the newly-constituted 'American Sikh Congressional Caucus' will deal only with domestic civil rights issue.

Bera's revised statement, three days after he publicly announced to join the Caucus, is considered to allay concerns of the Indian Government that the newly-made Caucus in the United States carries some individuals and groups, who in the past had indulged in anti-India activities including the separatist Khalistan movement.

"I'm a proud member of the Congressional Caucus on India, and any matters involving India, or US-India relations should and will be handled by that group. The American Sikh Caucus' work will deal with domestic civil rights issues," Bera said in a revised statement on Thursday.

The announcement for the formation of the Caucus was made on April 24 at the Capitol Hill in the office of the Congresswoman Judy Chu.

She is the Co-Chair of Caucus, along with Congressman David Valadao. So far, more than 30 Congressmen have joined the Caucus.

Chu too had said at the time of the announcement that this would focus on domestic issues, despite which there remains concerns among some section of the Indian-American community and also the Indian Government, which had expressed its concerns to the lawmakers about the presence of pro-Khalistan elements among the supporters of the group.

Bera's statement is seen as a move by the lawmakers to address those concerns.

"The memory of the tragedy at Oak Creek is still fresh, and in my own community of Elk Grove, two Sikh men were murdered in 2011 in a suspected hate crime. Violence and discrimination against the Sikh American community is a real and important civil rights issue in the US," Bera said.

"That's why I co-sponsored strong anti-hate crimes legislation earlier this year, and that's why I joined the 'American Sikh Congressional Caucus', to work on civil rights issues here in America," he said.

"Sadly, just this week there was another reminder of the importance of these issues in America, when a Sikh man was brutally attacked in Fresno, not far from my district. We must work together as a country of diverse cultures, faiths, and beliefs to end these senseless acts of violence and find understanding and peace. These are the issues the American Sikh Congressional Caucus will work on," Bera said justifying his reason to join the Caucus.

The Indian Embassy has maintained that it is aware of the issues that the Sikh community faces in the US and has said that it looks forward to work with the new Congressional Caucus.

"The Sikhs are prominent personalities in all walks of Indian life and contribute significantly to India's progress and well being. Our friends and interlocutors in the US

Congress are aware of this approach which was demonstrated in full measure when the Oak Creek killings took place in August of 2012," M Sridharan, spokesperson of the Indian Embassy, said earlier.

"The Embassy looks forward to work closely with the members of the newly constituted Congressional Caucus in consonance with the intended objective of the Caucus and to further strengthen the India-US strategic partnership," Sridharan said.

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