September 21, 2023 (New York, NY) — On Monday, September 18, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his country’s security agencies were “actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link” between the government of India and the killing of Sikh Canadian Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia last June.
To be extremely clear, Sikhs in India and throughout the diaspora have a wide range of opinions on a Sikh nation-state, and the Sikh Coalition does not presume to speak for all Sikhs on the issue. Our organizational mission remains focused on protecting the civil rights of Sikhs in the United States; we also strongly believe that all individuals have the fundamental right to peacefully advocate for their beliefs. We do speak out on international issues when they are relevant to Sikh civil rights in a significant way (e.g. the U.S. Farmers Protest, blackouts and other repressive measures in Punjab, or our advocacy work around the recent state visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the United States).
These allegations by the Canadian government are such an issue. The Sikh Coalition is gravely concerned about the potential of similar efforts to harm or kill peaceful, law-abiding Sikhs in the United States on the basis of political views they may or may not hold. More broadly, our community knows all too well how violence and oppression can come from careless, inflammatory rhetoric that paints already marginalized groups with broad labels like “extremist” or “terrorist,” and we believe that rising Hindutva, or hateful Hindu nationalism, in the United States is furthering such perceptions of Sikhs.
Accordingly, we have undertaken a number of steps to engage the U.S. government around these concerns:
- We have sent a letter to President Biden calling on his administration to take action to ensure the safety of our sangats, engage in serious conversations with the Indian government, and denounce propaganda;
- We are engaging specific agencies within the Biden Administration to facilitate formal meetings around Sikh history, civil rights, and safety concerns;
- We are exploring the best avenues to work with key congressional allies in response to the risks that Indian government activities and hateful Hindu nationalism pose to Sikhs and other marginalized communities in the United States; and
- We have submitted a statement for the record advocating that Congress permanently reauthorize the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom—a position we held before this week’s events, but one that is now more relevant than ever before.
In addition to our federal advocacy efforts, the Sikh Coalition remains committed to providing subject matter experts, resources, and context to allies across the civil rights ecosystem as well as media who are reporting on these topics, in many cases for the first time. We also remain grateful to our longtime partners at the World Sikh Organization in Canada who remain at the forefront of the ongoing international conversation. Finally, we also thank allied Hindu organizations and community leaders who continue to amplify concerns expressed by the Sikh community around our safety.
Again, we recognize that not all sangat members share the same perspectives on these issues. We remain committed to fighting for the civil rights of all Sikhs, regardless of their political views, and staying focused on the wide variety of legal, advocacy, community development, education, and media work that we do on behalf of the sangat.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.