(Report of issues raised in the house)
The speaker pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from California (Mr. Fazio) is recognized for 60 minutes.
Mr. Fazio. Mr. Speaker today marks the 1year anniversary of the Golden Temple incident which led to a wave of violence in India in which thousands of Sikh men, women, and children, and hundreds of Hindus perished.
I raise today, Mr. Speaker, not to condone the Sikh extremists led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, whose provocative actions were at least partially responsible for the Indian Army’s eventual attack on the Golden Temple. Acts of terrorism by anyone, by either Sikh or Hindu extremists, are deplorable and immoral.
Violence and terrorism have no legitimate role in the settlement of the issues of sectarian, religious, and political difference which divide these two great peoples of India.
I raise today, Mr. Speaker, because many Sikhs, particularly those outside of India have a number of questions about the incidents which even today remain unanswered. For example, Mr. Speaker, why has the Indian Government failed to allow any outside group, including representatives of internationally recognized human rights organizations, to conduct an independent inquiry into the events which led up to the attack on the Golden Temple? A group of my colleagues a bipartisan group, I might add and I requested permission to travel to the Punjab nearly 8 months ago, but our re Quest was turned down. Why, Mr. Speaker, did the Indian Government choose to attack the temple on a holy day, when others besides extremists might be inside the temple? What of allegations that the Indian troops in some fashion desecrated rare manuscripts and other items of religious, historical, or cultural value at the Temple?
Further, Mr. Speaker, very serious questions remain about the violence which occurred throughout India following the assassination of Mrs. Gandhi. Was the violence which claimed the lives of thousands of Sikhs, the result of a spontaneous expression of “madness” or “grief and anger” by the Hindu majority? Or were the riots, the arson, the murders the result of an organized plot against the entire Sikh community? Why has the Government failed to launch an official inquiry of the incident?
These are among the questions which remain unanswered in the minds of many Sikhs, including many of my constituents. They should be addressed.
Mr. Speaker, I also rise today to stress my firm belief that all parties, including the Sikhs and the Indian Government, should recommit themselves to restraint and condemn all acts of violence and terrorism whenever they occur. The only settlement which can have any lasting meaning is one that is achieved through peaceful, political negotiations conducted in good faith between the Sikh community and the Indian Government.
There is no room for violence and terrorism in such a process. These can only serve to undermine a true and lasting peace between all the peoples of India.
With this in mind, I urge Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and his Government to strengthen their efforts to reach a negotiated settlement to ensure that the rights of the Sikh minority are protected. The basic religious and political equality of the Sikh people must be preserved under the law through dialogue and agreement.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would like to applaud the courage of Prime Minister Gandhi for proceeding with his plans to come to the United States next week despite the threat against his life. As you know, that plot by a small band of extremists was foiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I know that Sikhs throughout the world were shocked and outraged at the revelation of his latest assassination plot. We are very fortunate that the FBI was able to uncover the plot before it succeeded and further impeded the achievement of a just and lasting peace between all the peoples of India.
I think there is no one in the body who feels more strongly about the basic validity of the democratic institutions that are the firm foundation of the State of India, but I do believe that it is important for people throughout the world tc express their concerns about human rights violations when they occur against obvious religious and ethnic minorities any. Where in the world.
I certainly mean by my comments today to provide no disservice to the ongoing effort to bring together the disparate peoples of India in one united country, but I do believe that I have a responsibility in representing my constituents and we as an institution have a responsibility in looking to human rights abuses whenever and wherever they occur, and simply by asking for further clarification and investigation we today reaffirm our desire to see the Indian people and their government further their goals and achieve the purpose with which that country was founded almost 40 years ago.
Mr. Lewis of California. Mr. Speaker, will the gentlemen yield? Mr. Fazio. I am happy to yield to my friend, the gentleman from California (Mr. Lewis), whom I know to be an expert on Indian affairs, having traveled there and lived there at an earlier time in his life. Mr. Lewis of California. Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for yielding.
I say to my friend, the gentleman from California (Mr. Fazio) that I think it is important that he raise this question and this concern before the House today. As the gentleman mentioned, Prime Minister Gandhi will be in the United States next week and will be addressing a joint meeting of the House.
The gentleman also mentioned that I spent a little time in India myself. Indeed, as a student at UCLA, I had the privilege of participating in a program called Project India that sent a number of our young people from our campus to Southeast Asia to travel through India. We spent a lot of time with our peers, college students, in 1955 and 1965.
It was my privilege on my first visit to have an opportunity to talk with now Prime Minister Gandhi when he was also a student. I can save from personal knowledge that he is an individual who is committed to democratic principles, an individual who would reflect similar concerns that the gentleman has expressed here.
It is very, very, clear that one of the fundamentals of the democratic system is recognition of the values of tolerance, of caring for the fundamental freedoms of peoples. Freedom of religion of course 18 basic to that.
For those many, many Sikh citizens who now are living in this country and who have contributed so much to that new thrust of American life, I am sure that they, too, would want to express their concerns and join with the gentleman in the concerns that he has mentioned here on the floor.
In the last several days I have had an opportunity to talk time and again with our colleague, the gentleman from California, (Mr. Chappie) who has a
Number of Sikh citizens living in his district who have been most concerned about developments in Southeast Asia! It seems to me that what we are really attempting to do here is to communicate to what is now the world’s largest democracy our concern that all of us share, with a balance of support for all the fundamentals of the democratic process.
Mr. Gandhi’s visit here, I personally believe will add a great deal to that. The gentleman’s comments on the floor will I think, in a very special way express the interest and concern the House has concerning this very critical and fundamental matter.
Mr. Speaker, 1 appreciates my colleague’s yielding.
Mr. Fazio. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my friend’s comments and I certainly want to associate myself with them particularly with his latter remarks. I look forward very much to Mr. Gandhi’s visit. I think it is important to the mutual relationships that exist between these two democracies.
Having studied Asian history as a student in college, I certainly have a very great belief that democratic institutions have taken root in the subcontinent and are going to flourish through the years. They do have some very difficult challenges in integrating
The vast array of religious and ethnic groups that make up that very polyglot and disparate state. None of us in this country should in any way despite our own heritage, underestimate the difficulty of that task.
But the Sikh community is a very vibrant community, both economically, socially, and intellectually. It exists all over the world. It is a pillar. I think, not only of Indian economic progress but is a true believer in democracy in India.
I simply would like to highlight the need that community has to be given the opportunity to find some areas of independence and autonomy perhaps at the local level, where they have large numbers in certain provinces, as in the Punjab area and where I think their interests must be given full consideration by the Indian Government as it attempts to develop its system of federalism.
Mr. Lewis of California. Mr. Speaker, will my colleague yield further to me?
Mr. Fazio. I yield to the gentleman of California. (Mr. Lewis of California asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. Lewis of California. Mr. Speaker, let me say further. To the gentleman from California (Mr. Fazio) that recently I had the opportunity in visiting the district of the gentleman from California (Mr. Chappie) to talk with a number of people about the problems of the Sikh community as they are making a new kind of contribution to the world of democracy here in our country. It truly is incredible to see the contributions that have been made to our democratic society by those who are immigrating to us in this generation. They are among the most intelligent, the most industrious, and in some cases the most prosperous. The Sikh community that is an American community is making a phenomenal contribution.
Beyond the economic progress that they have seen and made and the contributions they have made to our individual communities, it is fascinating for me to see them now reaching out and attempting to express once again their support for democratic principles that go way beyond their own personalized interests, their family interests, and perhaps even their selfish interests. They, too, are saying that democracy works here, it works in India, and let us just make it all the better.”
Mr. Fazio. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentleman’s comments. I think the reason we are here today holding up the interests of the Sikh community is because in this country, where they have flourished, where they came originally as farm workers and railroad workers, they have attained the status of professional and people active in the academic world and in the sciences. And, additionally, of course, they are some of the most successful farmers in the American agricultural community.
They have reaffirmed their interest in the democratic institutions, and they have learned how to use them. I think the efforts we are putting forth in the House of Representatives today testify to their sophistication and understanding as to how the world works and what role this institution may play in moving Indian policy perhaps in the direction of accommodating their concerns which I think are legitimate concerns, about the temple massacre. And that, I think, for all of us is a question that needs some very real answers and attention given to it by the Indian Government.