Speech of HON. GENE CHAPPIE of California in the House of Representatives, Thursday, June 6, 1985.
Mr. Chappie. Mr. Speaker, last Thursday, June 6, marked the first anniversary of the Golden Temple incident in India. The result of this incident was a wave of violence which claimed the lives of thousands of people including men, women, and children, of the Sikh community, as well as, hundreds of Hindus. In the attack, many important religious documents and structures were destroyed. All this occurred in a place, not where people gather to fight, but where people go to worship. Many questions remain as to what happened at the Golden Temple, and I rise today to urge the Indian Government to do all in its power to answer the questions which still remain.
I do not seek these answers in order to cast blame on any one group. Instead, I do not believe we will ever see an end to the hostilities between the Sikhs and Hindus unless and until those questions which are so important to the Sikh community, and to the rest of the world, are answered. As one who is fortunate to have a large Sikh community in my district, I can attest to the deep feelings which linger on about this incident. Many of the allegations of human rights violations committed against the Sikhs occurred during and after the attack on the Golden Temple. The failure on the part of the Indian Government to conduct its own investigation of this incident is only creating deeper tensions between the Sikh and Hindu people. I strongly believe that once an investigation of the incident has occurred and the answers are provided, we will see the healing process begin between the 2 two great peoples of India. Since the attack on the Golden Temple and the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the Sikh people have received greater public attention. To many Americans, however, the Sikh people are still unknown. There are approximately 15 million Sikhs in the world who follow the religion of Sikhism. The majority of Sikhs live in the State of Punjab in northwestern India, with the remaining population living in nearly every part of the world. There are about a quarter million Sikhs currently living in the United States. The Sikhs in the United States, and_ specifically those who reside in my district, have made a great contribution to our society. They are extremely industrious individuals who work hard to make things better for themselves and their families. They also have a great social conscience, stressing community service and helping those who are unable to help themselves. In India, the Sikhs are fighting to achieve social justice; to be treated as equals among the rest of the population of India. What is going on in India today with regard to the Sikhs is similar in many ways to what went on here in the United States during the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. Fortunately, for the United States, we were able to move forward in our fight against discrimination. Hopefully, India will move in the same direction. This week we will be honored by the visit of the Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi. I hope that the administration, along with the Congress, will stress upon him the need for his government to continue its efforts in pursuing the democratic principles of human rights for all those who live in India. For peace to exist in India between the Sikhs and Hindus, the Sikhs must be provided with complete religious and political equality. Prime Minister Gandhi appears to be heading in this direction, and it is imperative that he continue with reforms until the rights of the Sikhs are preserved and ensured for future generations to come. I believe that good faith negotiations between the Sikhs and the Indian Government can attain this goal. India was founded on the principles of democracy with the Indian constitution guaranteeing the rights of all citizens of the country and prohibiting discrimination of people based on religion, caste, or place of birth. I know that Prime Minister Gandhi is dedicated to carrying out these principles, and I have faith in his beliefs and courage to continue on the path toward bringing Hindus and Sikhs together in India.
I also want to make it clear, that while it is important to continue the fight for Sikh rights in India, such a fight must be carried on peaceably, at the negotiating table. There is no room for violent acts of terrorism. Terrorism can never be a substitute for negotiation. Acts of terrorism, whether committed by Sikh or Hindu, are to be condemned, and those who commit such acts must be punished to the full extent of the law.
The only thing that terrorism brings is death, and most of the time is it to those who are just innocent bystanders. Extremists must not be allowed to control and speak for any group, because as we have seen in the past, these extremists will turn on their own, as well as people of different beliefs. In fact, the violence continues at the Golden Temple, as ten persons were injured on Sunday in fighting between militant and moderate Sikhs. Such outbursts only slow down the process of achieving social justice for the Sikhs in India.
The rift between Sikhs and Hindus can be eliminated, and I call on all my colleagues in Congress to join me in urging the Indian Government to negotiate and to pursue those policies which will ensure the rights of the Sikh community in India.
Article extracted from this publication >> June 21, 1985