US Justice Dept supports Sikhs, Hindus as hate crime victims

Last Updated: Thu, May 16, 2013 08:49 hrs

Washington: Meeting one of the long pending demands of Sikhs and Hindus in the US, Attorney General Eric Holder has said that the Department of Justice has recommended including the two communities among victims of hate crimes.

Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, Holder said he made this recommendation to the Advisory Policy Board of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to make the necessary changes in the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) in this regard.

"The (Justice) Department recommended to what's called the Advisory Policy Board last year that the UCR be amended to include anti-Sikh, anti-Hindu, anti-Arab, anti-Middle Eastern categories in the ethnicity or race section," Holder said.

"That board is supposed to meet again in June, where it will consider those potential changes before they make them to the FBI director. But it would be my strong recommendation the form be modified so that it captures anti-Sikh, anti-Muslim, anti-Middle Eastern violence," the Attorney General said.

Holder was responding to questions from California Congresswoman Judy Chu, who last month announced the establishment of the first ever American Sikh Congressional Caucus.

Chu recounted last week's vicious attack on 82-year-old Piara Singh who was beaten with an iron bar, puncturing one of his lungs, fracturing his face and breaking several ribs.

She said this was only the latest of a string of attacks on American Sikhs in recent years.

"In the last two years alone, two elderly Sikhs were murdered in Elk Grove, California; a Sikh cab driver was assaulted in Sacramento, California; a Sikh transit worker was assaulted in New York City; a Sikh cab driver was assaulted in Seattle, Washington; a Sikh business owner was shot and injured in Port Orange, Florida; and six Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, were murdered, of course, in one of the worst attacks in an American place of worship since the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church," Chu said.

Chu said the FBI tracks hate crimes on its Form 1699.

"There is no current way to document hate crimes against Sikhs on this form, even though Sikh Americans continue to experience hate crimes at rates that are disproportionate to their population," she said.

According to Sikh coalition surveys in New York City and the San Francisco Bay area, approximately 10 per cent of Sikhs believe they've been subjected to hate crimes.

Arab Americans and Hindu Americans also face hate crimes, but they too are excluded from tracking.

"If someone were to look at FBI data today, it would be as though Sikhs, Arab-Americans and Hindus did not exist," Chu said.

"We have asked for revisions to Form 1699, and there are 135 members of the US Congress that have signed onto this, as well as the Civil Rights Division and Community Relations Service of the US Department of Justice, in supporting revisions to Form 1699," she said.

"Can you tell us what the status of this is so that hate crimes against these populations can finally be tracked?" Chu asked.

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