California State Assembly declares November as Sikh Appreciation and Awareness Month

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(Courtesy: California State Assembly)

The California State Assembly unanimously passed a resolution Aug. 13, recognizing November as Sikh American Awareness and Appreciation Month.

As of Aug. 24, Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 267 is now in the California Senate for a 3rd reading and is expected to be passed soon.

The bill follows The Punjabi American Heritage Society’s declaration of November as Sikh Appreciation and Awareness month in California, a press release from the organization says.

According to the text of ACR 267, the resolution “would recognize and acknowledge the significant contributions made by Californians of Sikh heritage to our state and seek to afford all Californians the opportunity to better understand, recognize, and appreciate the rich history and shared principles of Sikh Americans,” according to the text available on the California Legislature’s website. “This measure would condemn all hate crimes and bias incidents against Sikh Americans and encourage all Sikhs to practice their faith freely and fearlessly.”

The resolution notes how Sikhs first entered California in 1899 through the Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco, and follows the history of the community from the time it helped build the railroad and  worked in lumber mills, to the present, when Sikhs not only are successful farmers and politicians, but also have faced a resurgence of hate crimes around the country and in California. (see leginfo.legislature.ca.gov)

Some of the facts mentioned in ACR 267 include —  On October 14, 1912, the first Sikh house of worship (gurdwara) in the United States, the Stockton Sikh Temple, was founded by Jawala Singh and Wasakha Singh. The following year, the congregation formed the Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society; There are now more than 220 known gurdwaras in the United States, 58 of which are in California, including the Gurdwara Sahib of San Jose, the largest gurdwara in North America; Legislation to authorize Sikhs and other East Indian immigrants to naturalize as United States citizens was not enacted until 1946; Scholarships for studies of Sikh history and religion were established in Berkeley; On November 1, 1913, The Ghadar, the first Punjabi-language newspaper in the United States, was published by Kartar Singh Sarabha, who was then 17 years of age, with financial support from the Stockton Sikh Temple; Sikh farmers contribute abundantly towards production of peaches, raisins, grapes, almonds, pistachios, okra, and other specialized crops of fruits, vegetables, and nuts; Dalip Singh Saund, a Sikh from Punjab, earned a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1924, and went on to become the first Indian-American in the U.S. Congress in 1957.

The resolution recognizes Narinder Singh Kapany of Palo Alto, an accomplished scientist and inventor who has been awarded over 100 patents that spurred advances in lasers, biomedical instrumentation, pollution monitoring, and solar energy, and is widely acknowledged to be the father of fiber optics, a technology that has allowed for high-speed digital communication; and Yuba City, often called “Mini-Punjab” because of its 10 percent Punjabi population, commemorates the inauguration of the holy Sikh scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, on the first Sunday of November; numerous organizations are named in the resolution and individual gurdwaras which participate in interfaith meetings; it dwells on the attacks on the community such as school harassment, employment discrimination, or hate crimes, including the murders of six Sikhs during the Oak Creek, Wisconsin Sikh gurdwara shooting on August 5, 2012, as well as the senseless murders of Surinder Singh and Gurmej Singh Atwal in Elk Grove, California, on March 4, 2011.

This is not the first time that California has passed such a resolution. In 2010 they honored and recognized the contributions of Sikh Americans over the last one hundred plus years.

“The Punjabi American Heritage Society would like to express gratitude to Honorable Assemblyman James Gallagher for recognizing PAHS members and other Sikhs on the floor of Assembly. We would also like to thank Honorable Assemblymen Ash Kalra and Jim Cooper for introducing and co-authoring this resolution. We humbly request all schools, colleges and universities to have educational events during the month of November at their campuses to end ignorance and prevent bullying and hate crimes against fellow Americans,” a spokesperson stated in a press release.

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