California State Senate Celebrates Sikh Community

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Prompted by a suspected hate crime in his district, pro Tem Steinberg has proclaimed April 13th to be “We are all Sikh day” in Sacramento.  Events will take place in Sacramento and at the State Capitol with a ceremony on the Senate floor on April 11th. 

Earlier this year, two elderly Sikh gentlemen were shot while taking their daily walk in their neighborhood.  Police and FBI suspect that the motive for the attack might be a mistaken belief that since they were wearing turbans, they were Muslim, and are treating the attack as a suspected hate crime.  One man, Surinder Singh, 65, was killed and another, Gurmej Atwal, 78, is still hospitalized in critical condition. Hundreds attended vigils and memorial services for Mr. Singh, and continue to hope for Mr. Atwal’s recovery. 

In response, on April 13th, community leaders and activists will be wearing turbans and traditional Sikh dress to show solidarity with the Sikh community in light of these horrible events.   Sikhism has a long tradition of rejecting violence and spurred by their religion's dictates, Sikhs have a long, celebrated heritage of speaking out against injustice and standing up for the defenseless.  April 13th was chosen because the Sikh religious festival of Vaisakhi falls on that day.  Vaisakhi is an ancient harvest festival which marks the beginning of a new solar year and new harvest season. Sikh populations within the UK and the US celebrate with city parades and free food being offered. These celebrations are often organized by the community and local gurdwaras (temples).

The word Sikh means disciple or student. Sikhs are students and followers of Guru Nanak (b. 1469), the founder of the Sikh religious tradition, and the nine prophet-teachers—called Gurus—who succeeded him. Though sometimes mistaken for members of a sect of Hinduism or Islam, Sikhs belong to a distinct religion with its own unique, divine scriptures, which are collected in the Guru Granth Sahib, the eternal spiritual guide of the Sikhs.  In addition, Sikhs are required to lead moral lives, earn their living through hard work and honest means, and to share the fruits of their labor through charitable contributions and work.

The twenty-four million Sikhs worldwide trace the origin of their religion to Punjab, meaning the land of the five rivers, located in present-day Pakistan and northern India. Now the fifth largest religion in the world, Sikhism is universal in that it is open to all, and that it recognizes and respects all human beings as equals. The Sikh religion is profoundly egalitarian and democratic, as its adherents believe steadfastly that all people have civil rights, including the freedom of religion.

In addition to the celebration on the Senate floor, on April 13th, the pro Tem and members of the Sikh Community will be hosting a celebration on the west steps of the Capitol. 

If you would like further information on this event, please contact the pro Tem’s district office at 916-651-1529 or the Senate Majority Caucus at 916-651-1720.