Board meetings at the Sikh Coalition are intense.
The needs are many, the resources are few, and there’s plenty of debate (often heated) on how best to serve the community, to move the panth forward, and to realize the civil and human rights of all people.
Earlier this year around Vasakhi, when we met in New York City for our annual planning, we landed on our agenda topic titled “1984 – 30 Years.” But this topic was unlike any others we discussed that day. There was no debate, no arguments…but instead a collective commitment to make this the most impactful program of the year. Over the next few weeks, the entire Sikh Coalition team put together a plan to remember the 30th anniversary of 1984 around the themes of Educate, Engage, & Inspire.
“First Ever Congressional Briefing”
The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hosted the first-ever Congressional briefing on the November 1984 anti-Sikh massacres, which claimed the lives of several thousand Sikh civilians throughout India. Led by the Sikh Coalition, panelists at the briefing included Manoj Mitta, Sukhman Singh Dhami of Ensaaf; and filmmakers Harpreet Kaur and Manmeet Singh from Sach Productions. Check out the Hearing Notice and clips of the testimony: http://tlhrc.house.gov/hearing_notice.asp?id=1268 Clip of Manoj Mitta’s Testimony >> Clip of Harpreet Kaur’s Testimony >> Clip of Sukhman Singh’s Testimony >>
As part of our media engagement efforts, the Sikh Coalition staff and advisory board authored the following articles.
“It’s Time India Accept Responsibility for Its 1984 Sikh Genocide” – Simran Jeet Singh, Time Magazine
“How Washington can support justice for the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms” – Rajdeep Singh, The Hill
“India’s new prime minister promised to investigate a genocide against Sikhs. Why hasn’t he?” – Jasmeet K. Ahuja, Washington Post
“As 30-Year Anniversary of Mass Killings in India Arrives, Sikhs Find Safety in USA” – Simran Jeet Singh, The Daily Beast
“India’s problems will not be solved with money and weapons” – Rajdeep Singh, The Hill
As part of our community engagement, we led the following initiatives;
“Witnessing 1984” Panel Discussion – a panel discussion on the Sikh experiences and events of 1984. Three community members shared their experiences in in our New York City office about living through the attack on Darbar Sahib in June and the pogroms of November 1984.
“From 1984 to Gujarat” Book Discussions with Author Manoj Mitta – Book discussions were held with author, journalist, and human rights activist Manoj Mitta at George Washington University, Columbia University, and the Sikh Coalition’s NYC office. Mr. Mitta spoke about his two groundbreaking books on human rights abuses in India: When a Tree Shook Delhi: The 1984 Carnage and Its Aftermath and The Fiction of Fact-Finding: Modi and Godhra.
Kultar’s Mime – On Saturday, January 24th, The Sikh Coalition will host a showing of Kultar’s Mime in Washington DC followed by a panel discussion for Capitol Hill staffers, human rights organizations, and partners. Kultar’s Mime is a play based on a poem describing the sufferings of the Sikhs of Delhi after the pogroms, through the eyes of a group of young survivors.
But of all the initiatives, the one that inspired me most was the ‘Connecting with 1984’ Small Grants Pool, where a group of committed donors offered $100,000 in small grants to individuals and/or groups to create and deliver educational and innovative programs to raise awareness within the Sikh community about the events of 1984. Over the last 6 months, the Sikh Coalition has awarded grants for projects such as children’s books, plays, open mic events, workshops, conferences, and archive projects.
As I’ve written about before on this blog, 30 years marks a new generation of Sikhs who will grow up learning about 1984 with little direct connection. And we must decide how that story will be told…a tale of “loss and destruction” or of “courage and inspiration.” The small grants pool has enabled and empowered so many to find their voice and create innovative ways to craft the narrative of 1984 for generations to come.
Even with all these initiatives, many will criticize that we haven’t done enough.
And they will be right.
No one at the Sikh Coalition would disagree.
But I take comfort in knowing that I work with a team where each and every individual has been moved and inspired by the events and personalities of 1984…and knowing the work does not stop here – collectively, we will not let this moment in history pass quietly.
If this work means something to you…please consider making a donation to the Sikh Coalition. I’ve made a personal commitment to raise $10,000 so that that this type of programming and similar work can continue in n 2015. I hope I can count on your support.