Governor Corzine and New Jersey Assembly Speaker Celebrate Vasakhi With Sikh Community
(Trenton, New Jersey) May 8, 2006 - New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine joined Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts and Assemblyman Upendra J. Chivukula and in calling for safeguards for the Sikh community’s civil rights during Vaisakhi celebrations on April 25, 2006. The event, organized by Assemblyman Chivukula, was held in the New Jersey Legislative Assembly Chambers. The Coalition’s Legal Director spoke on behalf of the Sikh community at the celebration.
“Just as we celebrate diversity, we need to safeguard diversity, I think all of us understand that if we have intolerance (towards each other)...violence and hatred among mankind will spill over into all of our lives. Your community, the Sikh community has suffered from that violence and that discrimination. We want to make sure that in New Jersey everyone feels that this is home and that they have the opportunity and the dreams to go forward.” - Governor Corzine in his keynote address
The sounds of “Vaah Guru Ji Ka Khalsa, Vaah Guru Ji Ki Fateh !” resonated through the New Jersey Assembly Chambers as hundreds of Sikhs came to Trenton to take part in the celebration.
Assembly Speaker Roberts echoed Governor Corzine’s call for protecting the civil rights of the Sikh community. “We need to recognize that people who look different need to be respected and we have to be ever vigilant to ensure that ignorance and lack of tolerance and lack of understanding and lack of a commitment to peaceful coexistence doesn’t get in our way to discharge all the blessings that we have as Americans and as New Jerseyans,” said Roberts.
Assemblyman Chivukula said that he was grateful for having initiated a dialogue between representatives of the Sikh community and Governor Corzine on the infringement of their religious rights and rising discrimination in the aftermath of 9/11. He said the General Assembly Chambers, where legislators seek to pass laws to protect the rights to liberty, justice and equality of all New Jerseyans was a fitting venue for such an initiative. Chivukula, a long standing advocate of minority and religious rights, co-sponsored an Anti-Racial Profiling Bill in 2003 that was passed into law in New Jersey. Chivukula noted that the word Sikh means Seeker of Truth and that the message of universal brotherhood and Ik Onkar (One God), important tenets of Sikhism, are as relevant today as when Guru Nanak Dev Ji founded the faith in the sixteenth century. He said the 20 million Sikhs worldwide make a significant political, economic and cultural contribution globally as well as to the State of New Jersey.
The Coalition’s Legal Director also addressed the gathering. His address noted that the Sikh Coalition had documented over 40 instances of discrimination against Sikhs in New Jersey since 9/11 and called for greater protection for the civil rights of the community. The Coalition’s Legal Director was also able to hand Governor Corzine a joint memorandum from the eight gurudwaras of New Jersey, the Sikh Coalition, and United Sikhs that discusses the civil rights concerns of the Sikh community and calls for specific measures to address them.
The participating hosts of the Vaisakhi Celebration at the New Jersey General Assembly Chambers include the Central Jersey Sikh Association, Robbinsville, NJ; Dashmesh Darbar, Carteret, NJ; Garden State Sikh Association, Bridgewater, NJ; Guru Nanak Society of Delaware Valley, Deptford, NJ; Gurudwara Baba Makhan Shah Lobana, Richmond Hills, NJ; Khalsa Darbar of South Jersey, Inc. Burlington, NJ; The Sikh Coalition, New York, NY; Sikh Cultural Society, Richmond Hills, NY; Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Glen Rock, NJ; The Singh Sabha, Inc., Port Reading, NJ; The Sikh Sabha of New Jersey, Lawrenceville, NJ; United Sikhs, New York, NY.
The Coalition would like to thank Gurparkash Singh, Jasjit Singh, Harvinder Singh, Hardayal Singh, and Assemblyman Chivukula for playing central roles in organizing the Vasaikhi celebration.
We urge all Sikhs to practice their faith fearlessly. If someone tells you to remove your articles of faith, please report the incident online at Reports.