Sikhs residing in the United States being victims of mistaken identity and human trafficking were some of the main issues raised between the delegation of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee during a 45- minutes meeting with the Department of State on July 14 in Washington, DC.
The 8-member team headed by Manjit Singh GK, president, DSGMC, met Eileen O’ Connor, deputy assistant secretary, the department of state at WashingtonDC and appraised her about various achievements and initiatives of his organisation, and how the DSGMC has been able to voice and resolve the concerns of Sikhs across the globe.
Singh said that since 9/11, Sikhs have been victims of mistaken identity and hate crimes on various occasions, so other communities and residents need to be well-informed about the faith as Sikhs believe in principles of equality.
The delegation submitted a memorandum that citied for a cultural exchange between the two sides and cooperation in the field of healthcare and setting up of faith schools in the US as well.
Asked on the objective behind coming to the US, Sirsa said, "We are here to promote the Shiromani Akali Dal and to fill a gap between the people of America and India."
He said that the social media has created a negative image among non-resident Indians about Punjab and the SAD, and so, being the ruling party of Punjab, it's their concern and responsibly to clarify them what the government has done in the past eight and a half years in that state.
“We got the best governance award from the Central government,” he said.
He said that the biggest concern was the NRIs feel the party ignored them, and so they feel disconnected. He agreed this is the reason the NRI's supported the Aam Aadmi Party during the Lok Sabha elections in India.
Asked what they think created the gap, Sirsa said, "I think we did not have a good spokesperson here to promote the party, neither we were able to put our case in a proper forum to the Indian diaspora."
"People see us the way we are portrayed. But we neither cultivate nor produce drugs,” and added, "It comes from Rajasthan, which is known for opium where it is legal to sell, and we are urging the Centre to look in this issue."
"I agree it's a big social mess in Punjab, we are taking it seriously and are trying to handle this situation on a war level. That the conviction rate is high in Punjab at almost 80 per cen -- we are not soft on drugs,” said Sirsa.
He also alleged that a few Sikh elements and the New York-based organisation 'Sikhs for Justice' has been harassing people.
Meanwhile, SFJ legal advisor Gurpatwant Singh Pannun’s office has filed a case against Singh at the US district court of New York on July 10, alleging harassment of plaintiffs Harjit Singh and Janki Kaur by the DSGMC president.
Asked about the cases, Sirca alleged that the SFJ is doing this to exploit Sikh sentiments for their own vested interests.
"They have threatened me," Sirsa said pointing to Pannun.
Sirsa said he too has filed a complaint on July 13 with the police department in Washington, DC, to open an investigation against Pannun and his agents on the charges of threaten to kill or physically harm someone and extortion.
He has also sent letters to the department of homeland security, US department of justice, and the secretary of state of New York to investigate into the activities and legitimacy of the SFJ.
Pannun, in response to Sirsa's allegation said that the latter is fearful they he will be arrested and charged by the New York police for openly issuing criminal threats to an employee of Pannun’s law firm, who was helping the licenced process servers to track him (Sirsa) on July 11 in New York.
"We will continue to hunt human rights violators who come to US to solicit funds to strengthen their political power," said Pannun.