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Sikhs in San Jose interact with law enforcement agencies

December 23, 2011 01:34 IST

Over 50 people attended the 'Know Your Rights Forum' organised by the Sikh American Legal Defence and Education Fund on December 11 at the San Jose, California, gurdwara.

The Sikh community got an opportunity to speak to local law enforcement officials and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about their issues.

Linda Li, program analyst, San Francisco district office, said, "The best way to use the EEOC is by knowing your rights. If you feel you are being discriminated talk to us face to face."

Taking questions from the audience on why cases take years to resolve, Li said she agreed there had been a backlog since 9/11. She said until September 2010, 1,026 charges were filed under Title VII, alleging post-9/11 backlash employment discrimination. "We have a staff crunch and so if a letter is sent to us it could go in the backlog," she added.

Li said that since the 9/11 attacks the EEOC received 5,750 charges of discrimination based on religion.

Replying to a query on hiring of Sikhs in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Tamara L Neiman, supervisory special agent, FBI, in Campbell, California, said, "We have a huge outreach for foreign language speakers and we do not have any dress requirements except if you can wear a suit." She said a head dress or a turban does not disqualify anyone from being an FBI agent or support.

Talking about hate-crime Neiman said, "Education among different groups will help decrease hate-crime in the community." She said though after 9/11 there was an increase in hate crimes; San Jose had fewer such incidents.

"The Know Your Rights Forum is the best way of getting in touch with our community and making sure they are fully aware of their rights," Birpal Kaur, community relation associate, SALDEF, told India Abroad.

"So part of the process is to bring in various agencies to talk on hate crimes, investigation processes and local law enforcement."

The 'Know Your Rights' program has been on for the last 10 years across US. SALDEF has also worked on bullying related issues in schools.

Mehar Mahal, a Sacramento-based attorney and volunteer at SALDEF, said, "My goal is to help people of our generation to get involved and give back to the community."
Ritu Jha in San Jose