The Tribune – Indian-American Sikh becomes US’ Harris County’s first turban-wearing Deputy Constable

Houston – Texas – USA, 22 January 2020. Amrit Singh, an Indian-American law enforcement officer, has scripted history by becoming the first-ever turban-wearing Sikh to be sworn in as Deputy Constable in Harris County in the US state of Texas.

Singh, 21, will be the first in his profession to wear his articles of faith, a turban, beard, and uncut hair in the line of duty.

It was a historic day on Tuesday as Singh’s swearing-in coincided with the adoption of a new policy that allows law enforcement officers in nearly every single Harris County Constable’s Office to wear articles of their faith while in uniform. For Sikhs, that means being able to wear a turban and beard while on duty.

Singh always wanted to work as a peace officer. He spent years in law enforcement explorer programmes and five months in a police training academy. “Growing up, I always wanted to be a deputy and my Sikh faith was also very important to me,” Singh said.

“Constable Alan Rosen was the first one to give me a call back. He opened this agency with open arms for me,” he said.

Speaking at Singh’s swearing-in ceremony, Precinct 1 Constable Rosen said the county’s eight constables supported accommodations for Sikhs to serve while adhering to their religion.

“As a man of the Jewish faith, I know how it feels to be religiously targeted and how important it is to teach inclusion, understanding and tolerance,” Rosen said, standing in front of representatives from the county’s other constable offices.

“To me, wearing a yarmulke or him wearing a turban really doesn’t impact the quality of work he’s going to do. It should have zero impact on public safety or what job we do.

Are you going to care if the person showing up to your door to help save you has a turban or yarmulke? You’re not. You’re just happy they’re there to save you and keep you safe,” the officer said.

Singh will now go on to months of field training, after which he will be assigned to patrol within Precinct One. In 2015, Harris County made national headlines after sheriff’s deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal fought for and won the rights to wear his turban and beard on duty.

At the time of the deputy’s murder last year, just a few dozen law enforcement agencies across the United States, and the US Army, had uniform policies with religious accommodations allowing Sikhs to serve in accordance with their faith.

“Legacy of Dhaliwal is not far removed, it clearly recognised and acknowledge his service and this is a gift that continues to give in his recognition and legacy,” said Bobby Singh, a Sikh community leader.

In 2009, Dhaliwal was the first Sikh to join the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and in 2015, he became the first Sikh law enforcement officer to be allowed to wear his articles of faith in uniform. He was shot and killed during a traffic stop last year.

“We honour his legacy by honouring his faith here today,” Rosen said.

In the months since Dhaliwal’s death, law enforcement agencies in California, Washington and in Texas have signalled willingness to change their policies, said Manpreet Singh of the Sikh Coalition, which advocates for religious accommodations for minority communities in public and private sectors.

“It makes me proud to be a Houstonian, and a Texan. I hope the rest of the nation follows Texas,” she said.

“I could just hope that I could be half as decent a cop as he ever was, and everything I do, I want people to know that I’m doing it following in his footsteps,” Deputy Singh said.

“He made our community proud,” said Suhel Singh, Deputy Singh’s father.

Singh’s parents were recognised at the ceremony. They told FOX 26 that they were proud to see their son pursue his passion even though it is a dangerous job.

“The way I look at it, maybe it will make me pray harder and be more praying for his protection from God,” said Singh’s mother Sukie Kaur. Singh is now one of just two law enforcement officers in the county wearing a turban.

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/indian-american-sikh-becomes-us%E2%80%99-harris-county%E2%80%99s-first-turban-wearing-deputy-constable-30033

CNN – Houston Police Department honors fallen Sikh deputy by allowing officers to serve with their articles of faith

Harmeet Kaur

Houston – Texas – USA, 18 November 2019. The Houston Police Department has a message for the community: their doors are open.

The department formally announced at a news conference Monday that it is changing its uniform policy to allow officers to wear their articles of faith while serving, a practice prohibited by many law enforcement agencies.

In the words of Mayor Sylvester Turner, “It’s about time.”

The policy change, signed on 11 October, was made partly in honor of Sandeep Dhaliwal, the Harris County sheriff’s deputy who was killed in the line of duty in September. Dhaliwal gained national attention in 2015 when the sheriff’s department changed its policy to allow him to wear the Sikh turban and a beard as part of his uniform.

“I’m proud to stand with you today to say that the Houston Police Department is now the largest law enforcement agency in Texas, and one of the largest two or three in the nation, to allow officers who are Sikhs to wear their articles of faith on duty,” Turner said.

Police Chief Art Acevedo said the department had already been working on a religious accommodation policy. But after Dhaliwal was killed and laid to rest, he couldn’t think of waiting another day without formalizing the department’s policy.

It was a necessary step for the most diverse city in the country, he said, noting that Houston’s police force was majority minority.

“You can’t just be welcoming and diverse. You have to be inclusive,” Acevedo said. “And inclusivity and bringing people in means that we had to change our policy.”

Lt. Colonel Kamal Kalsi, one of the first Sikhs to be granted a religious accommodation from the US Army, told CNN that Houston’s move sends a powerful message.

“It certainly is a step forward for diversity and equality but very, very simply put, for people like me, it means that Houston PD is saying, ‘We love you, we accept you, we respect you and your turbans are part of the American fabric,'” Kalsi said.

Houston police join a few other law enforcement agencies around the nation, including the NYPD, Chicago Police Department, Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC and the Riverside Police Department in California, to make such changes in recent years.

Sikh advocacy groups praised the policy change.

“This policy change shows that no one should ever choose between their faith or their career, and also that these articles of faith pose no barrier to service,” Nikki Singh, policy and advocacy manager for the Sikh Coalition, told CNN.

Since Dhaliwal’s death, the Sikh Coalition has called on state and national police agencies to develop religious accommodation policies. It has also called on the Department of Defense to implement a streamlined religious accommodation process across all branches of the US military, in line with the Army’s policy change in 2017.

https://us.cnn.com/2019/11/18/us/houston-pd-religious-accommodation-trnd/index.html

The Asian Age – Americans mourn killing of Indian-American Sikh police officer in Texas

Family, friends and strangers prayed on Saturday at Dhaliwal’s memorial off Willancy Lane in northwest Harris County.

Houston – Texas – USA, 29 September 2019. Lt Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal put the Sikh imperative of selfless service on display for all and touched a nation with his example, a senior US official has said.

Americans mourn killing of trailblazing Indian-American Sikh police officer in Texasn unbridled outpouring of grief from many Americans over the gruesome killing of the first Indian-American police officer in Texas.

Dhaliwal, 42, who made national headlines when he was allowed to grow a beard and wear a turban on the job in the US state of Texas, was gunned down while conducting a mid-day traffic stop in northwest of Houston on Friday. Family, friends and strangers prayed on Saturday at Dhaliwal’s memorial off Willancy Lane in northwest Harris County.

Dhaliwal’s youngest sister Ranjeet Kaur joined the crowd and lit a candle for her brother. She remembered a man who loved his job. “He was a really great person. He didn’t deserve all this. He was a great person. He helped everybody. He never said no. He does as much as he can. I think this was the wrong time and the wrong place,” Kaur was quoted as saying by an US news channel.

Reacting to Dhaliwal’s killing, US acting assistant secretary for South and Central Asia Alice Wells said, “We mourn alongside colleagues, friends and family of Lt Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal, 1st Indian-American in Texas to serve as a police officer while maintaining articles of faith.

“Dhaliwal put the Sikh imperative of selfless service on display for all & touched a nation with his example,” she tweeted.

A 10-year veteran of the Harris County Sheriff’s office and its first Sikh deputy, Dhaliwal was taken by helicopter to a hospital where he died, a decade after becoming the force’s first Sikh and pushing for a historic expansion of religious rights in the department.

Dhaliwal worked with United Sikhs, a global humanitarian relief and advocacy nonprofit, to help organise the donation of truckloads of supplies for first responders after Hurricane Harvey. “Sandeep was a trailblazer for the Sikh-American community.

He served not just the Sikh community here in Houston with honour and dignity, but all of his community,” Bobby Singh, south-east regional director for the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund said on Twitter.

Houston mayor Sylvester Turner called Dhaliwal “a bold and groundbreaking law enforcement officer in the eyes of our county, our state, our nation”. Texas senator Ted Cruz said the state was “mourning a hero”.

In 2012, Washington DC became the first major US police force to make explicit accommodations for Sikhs to preserve their appearance on duty. An estimated 500,000 Sikhs live in the US as a whole. “Community-led candlelight vigil was held tonight in honour of Deputy Dhaliwal. Please continue to keep his family & his Texas family in your thoughts & prayers.

Deputy Dhaliwal was loved by this community,” County Major Mike Lee said in a tweet. “A grateful community remembers fallen Texas Deputy Dhaliwal. This makeshift memorial is growing as a steady flow of people have come from throughout the community to show their support. Deputy Dhaliwal loved serving this community and they loved him back,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez tweeted.

Starting as a detention officer in his late 20s, Dhaliwal was promoted to a deputy in 2015. The father of three young children was a practising Sikh. In 2015, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office made an official policy that allowed Dhaliwal to wear his beard and turban on duty. “As a Sikh American, I felt the need to represent the Sikh community in law enforcement.

It will give me the chance to open up the conversation,” ,” Dhaliwal told a news channel said at the time. There are 25 million Sikhs around the world and about 500,000 in the US, according to civil rights group The Sikh Coalition.

https://asianage.com/world/americas/290919/americans-mourn-killing-of-indian-american-sikh-police-officer-in-texas.html

OFMI – Tulsi Gabbard refuses invitation to “Howdy Modi” event in Texas

Gabbard drops out after Hindu-American congressman’s call to “reject Hindutva”

Houston – Texas – USA, 15 September 2019. An anonymous source within Tulsi Gabbard’s 2020 presidential campaign has confirmed to the Organization for Minorities of India that, despite widespread reportage by Indian media that she will attend, the US congresswoman has refused an invitation to join Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 22 September pep rally in Houston, Texas.

Gabbard’s decision to drop out of the event, dubbed “Howdy Modi,” follows on the heels of Congressman Ro Khanna’s statement, issued last month, that “it’s the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva, and speak for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Christians.”

Her action marks a significant change in engagement with India’s controversial premier considering she has previously met with him on four occasions.

“Khanna’s statement was immediately recognized by South Asian politicos as a seismic shift in Indo-centric politics,” wrote Amar Shergill on September 3.

An attorney who serves as an executive board member of the California Democratic Party, Shergill continued, “He is the highest ranking American elected official of Indian origin, with a deep understanding of and connection to South Asian politics, and, yet, he stated in decisive moral terms that the dominant political ideology of India must be rejected as a matter of fundamental human rights.”

Hindutva, defined by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom as an ideology that treats non-Hindus as foreign to India, is the guiding philosophy of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

The BJP’s Modi, who campaigned as a Hindu nationalist, stated in 2013, “My identity is of a Hindutvawadi [follower of Hindutva].” V D Savarkar, who popularized Hindutva as a religious nationalist political ideology in his 1923 book of the same name, stated, “India must be a Hindu land, reserved for the Hindus.”

In 2014, Gabbard appeared at events celebrating Modi’s election, even wearing scarves bearing the BJP logo. Later, at their first meeting, Gabbard gifted Modi her childhood copy of the Bhagavad Gita on which she had taken the oath of office.

In 2016, she called Modi “a leader whose example and dedication to the people he serves should be an inspiration to elected official everywhere.”

Since 2018, the Hawaiian congresswoman has faced repeated protest for her long-term association with American Hindutva groups, particularly the Overseas Friends of the BJP and the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh.

HSS is the international wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a paramilitary founded on Savarkar’s Hindutva ideology and inspired by fascist movements in Europe. Gabbard’s oldest and most faithful donors include HSS Vice-President Ramesh Bhutada of Houston, who joined BJP (and former RSS) spokesperson Ram Madhav at her 2015 wedding in Hawaii.

Bhutada, as reported by a recent profile of Gabbard, worked from Texas to help elect Modi in India. He reportedly organized a phone bank of 700 volunteers and described US-based preparations for supporting Modi’s campaign as “almost like that for an Indian wedding.” He later called Modi’s election “a second independence for India.”

Several of Gabbard’s other Houston-based donors, such as Bhutada’s relative and business associate Vijay Pallod, traveled to India to campaign for the BJP.

“This is the second time I’ve seen Tulsi drop out of an RSS-sponsored event at the very last minute,” says Jada Bernard, an activist who has protested Gabbard on the presidential campaign trail. In September 2018, Bernard explains, Gabbard announced her withdrawal from the World Hindu Congress in Chicago just three days before the event began.

“Tulsi only withdrew after months of fierce protests by Indian minorities and her own constituents.” he adds. “Because the RSS chief was the keynote speaker, several other Hindu politicians also backed out. We’re seeing Hindus around the world speaking out against Hindutva and reject it as an embarrassment to their religion.”

“As the American public grows more knowledgeable about the violence and hate produced by Hindutva, Congresswoman Gabbard has faced increasing pressure to disassociate from groups that embrace this supremacist ideology,” remarks OFMI’s Arvin Valmuci.

“As Modi’s regime has done nothing except fuel the rise of the RSS and its vicious atrocities against India’s Dalits, Sikhs, Christians, and Muslims, we are encouraged to see Hindu politicians like Ro Khanna and Tulsi Gabbard rejecting association with him.
We call on all other American politicians of every background to follow their lead and abandon their support for Modi and his agenda of supremacy.”

Balbir Singh Dhillon, president of West Sacramento Sikh Gurdwara, says he wants more congressional representatives to speak out against Modi. “This is such a risky situation that Modi has created in South Asia,” comments Dhillon.

“Look at how his policy in Kashmir has caused tension between these three nuclear-armed powers: China, Pakistan, India. Standing up against Hindu nationalism is a matter of grave concern for American foreign policy.”

Organization for Minorities of India was founded in 2006 to advance individual liberties of Christians, Buddhists, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, and all Mulnivasi people of South Asia by encouraging secularism, progressive human rights, liberation of oppressed peoples, and universal human dignity.

Visit www.OFMI.org for more information.

Dawn – PM Imran, US Senator Sanders call attention to India’s ‘unacceptable’ actions in occupied Kashmir

Prime Minister Imran Khan and US Senator Bernie Sanders on Sunday raised the plight of Kashmiris, who have been living under a lockdown for four weeks in occupied Kashmir, while separately addressing the 56th Convention of Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

Houston – Texas – USA, 01 September 2019. Speaking at the event, Sanders, a Democratic presidential hopeful for the US Elections 2020, termed India’s move to annex occupied Kashmir as “unacceptable”.

“I am also deeply concerned about the situation in Kashmir where the Indian government has revoked Kashmiri autonomy, cracked down on dissent and instituted a communications blackout.

“The crackdown in the name of security is also denying the Kashmiri people access to medical care. Even many respected doctors in India have acknowledged that the Indian government-imposed restrictions on travel are threatening the life-saving care that patients need,” he said.

“The communications blockade must be lifted immediately and the United States government must speak out boldly in support of international humanitarian law and in support of a UN-backed peaceful resolution that respects the will of the Kashmiri people,” the senator stated.

Prime Minister Imran in his address, via video link, spoke about the need to understand the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) party, said to be a parent organisation of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“I am trying my best but from ISNA’s platform you have to make the concerted effort to make people understand this phenomenon which has taken over India. You have to make the Western societies understand the RSS.”

He said that the RSS party believed in the racial supremacy of the Hindu civilisation and the ethnic cleansing of Muslims from India, and urged people to research and find out about its origins.

“After the recently won elections by the BJP, they have come back as a stronger force. We are talking about a country of over a billion people with nuclear weapons taken over by an extreme ideology.

“What the Nazi party proved was that a small, highly organised ideologically motivated group could actually take over a country.

“That is what has happened in India. An extreme ideology has taken over India.

“The BJP government wants to change the demography; change a Muslim majority province into a Muslim minority province by bringing in outsettlers to come in and change the demography. This is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention Article 49. You cannot change the demography of an occupied land.”

“We believe what is happening in Kashmir is that RSS goons have been let loose amongst the population,” the premier said, urging ISNA to raise awareness about what was happening in occupied Kashmir.

“I am afraid that this ideology is not going to stop here; they have let out a genie out of a bottle. It is not going to go back in; this genie of hatred, of Hindu supremacy.

“It’s not just Muslims who are going to be at threat.

“We fear in Pakistan that we are not dealing with a rational government in India,” Prime Minister Imran stated, adding: “We believe that the sort of oppression they will do in Kashmir and are already doing, they will need to divert the world’s attention to Pakistan and we believe as they did in February, they will take some sort of an action, an attack in Pakistan.”

Prime Minister Imran said that he had asked the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to play its role. Additionally, he said he would raise the issue at the United Nations General Assembly.

He urged ISNA to make people aware of what was going on in India.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1502936/pm-imran-us-senator-sanders-call-attention-to-indias-unacceptable-actions-in-occupied-kashmir

Organization for Minorities of India – RSS paramilitary’s US affiliates organizing Modi reception in Houston

From: Arvin Valmuci (ofmi) <arvin.v@ofmi.org>

“Howdy, Modi” event expected to draw mass protest against BJP leader

Houston – Texas – USA, 04 August 2019. Leaders of various US groups affiliated with the RSS, an Indian paramilitary, are organizing a grand reception for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Houston, but the controversial BJP politician is as “welcome as an outhouse breeze” for many minorities of India who have made Texas their home.

“We don’t want Modi here in Houston,” says Gurmail Singh, a local businessman. “We just protested Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard as the mascot of India’s KKK because of her ties to the RSS. Now these RSS groups in Houston want to throw a shindig for Modi.

He’s a creature of the RSS. He let his people murder so many minorities in India. Like we say in Texas, Modi is as welcome as an outhouse breeze.”

The RSS, founded in 1925, is a uniformed and armed group with an estimated six million or more members. Its founders drew inspiration from Benito Mussolini’s fascist Italy and Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

Its longest serving chief, M S Golwalkar, even wrote in 1939: “To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races, the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here.”

Modi’s reception is scheduled for September 22, 2019 at Houston’s NRG Stadium. The event is officially hosted by the Texas India Forum, a registered nonprofit.

Searches of public access lists of registered nonprofits, however, yielded no results for TIF. The group does not have a website, and its only online presence appears to be HowdyModi.org, the website promoting Modi’s reception.

Jugal Malani, a Texas industrialist, is the only person whose name is currently attached to the “Howdy, Modi” event. Malani is an advisor to the Houston chapter of the US branch of the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation.

Ekal is an educational project founded by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the religious wing of the RSS. In 2018, the CIA declared the VHP a “religious militant organization” and the RSS a “nationalist organization.”

Malani is also the brother-in-law and business associate of Ramesh Bhutada, who is the Vice-President of HSS-USA, which is the international wing of the RSS. Bhutada is also an advisor to Ekal-Houston.

The Overseas Friends of BJP, the international wing of the BJP, is also heavily involved in organizing the reception. According to an OFBJP press release, Vijay Chauthaiwale, BJP Foreign Affairs Cell Chief, is urging the “US leadership” of the Indian political party to “mobilize the Indian Diaspora for the mega event.”

OFBJP executives such as President Krishna Reddy and others plan to “tour major cities to mobilize the community for the event.”

“Many minorities of Indian origin know Modi by the nickname, ‘Butcher of Gujarat,’” comments Arvin Valmuci, a spokesperson for Organization for Minorities of India. “The RSS’s many crimes against humanity include a pogrom against Muslims in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2002.

Modi was chief minister of Gujarat at the time. Members of his administration as well as of Hindu nationalist organizations like VHP and RSS led the slaughter of thousands of innocent people, including entire families.”

In a report investigating the 2002 violence, Human Rights Watch stated: “The groups most directly responsible for violence against Muslims in Gujarat include the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, the ruling BJP, and the umbrella organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps, RSS), all of whom collectively form the sangh parivar (or ‘family’ of Hindu nationalist groups).

These organizations, although different in many respects, have all promoted the argument that because Hindus constitute the majority of Indians, India should be a Hindu state.” Later, in 2007, VHP and BJP leaders who instigated the violence confessed on camera that Modi “gave” them three days to conduct the pogrom.

“We are calling on every Indian-American to protest on September 22,” concludes Valmuci. “We are calling on every American politician to boycott the ‘Howdy, Modi’ reception.

We remind the American public that Modi has been passionately protested by Christians, Dalits, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and many others every time he has visited the West to appear at these self-promotional, propagandistic ‘rockstar’ receptions. We have one thing to say: ‘Adios, Modi.’”

Modi was protested by hundreds, perhaps thousands, during his receptions in New York in September 2014 and California in September 2015.

Visit <www.AdiosModi.com> to stay updated