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Heirs of Punjab? Sikh American Group Condemns Attack on Indian Consulate in San Francisco; Indian American Lawmakers Silent

Heirs of Punjab? Sikh American Group Condemns Attack on Indian Consulate in San Francisco; Indian American Lawmakers Silent

  • The State Department condemned the violent protests while USIBC expressed "solidarity with “Indian Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Consul General Dr. T.V. Nagendra Prasad, and the staff at the Consulate in San Francisco.”

Reactions have been pouring in since the weekend attacks by what news reports are calling “pro-Khalistan protesters” at the Consulate General of India in San Francisco. Several windows were reportedly smashed, and a few embassy workers were injured. Passing the makeshift security barriers raised by San Francisco police, the protesters reportedly installed two Khalistani flags inside the consulate premises.

San Francisco Police Officer Robert Rueca told news outlets including The San Francisco Standard and CBS that embassy workers were injured, though he didn’t say how many or the extent of the injuries. Suspects fled and have not been arrested, he added. 

Similar protests were held in London and Canberra, Australia. They came a day after Punjab police launched a manhunt to capture Amritpal Singh, a 30-year-old separatist leader who supports the Khalistan movement, and leads a group called Waris Punjab De, or the “heirs of Punjab.” His supporters staged protests in Punjab over the weekend and 112 were arrested, the Press Trust of India news agency reported. 

Communications were restricted across the Punjab “for a third day as a manhunt continued for Singh, “whose rapid rise in the public eye has stirred fears of violence in a state with vivid memories of a bloody separatist insurgency,” The New York Times reported. The report noted that Singh “drove a truck and ran a small car rental business in Dubai, and was unknown until last year, when he emerged in Punjab and began leading marches joined by thousands of people.” He did that by calling for “protecting the rights of Sikhs and the culture of Punjab against what he called the overreach of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government.”

While the State Department and several Indian American groups issued statements condemning the March 19 attack, Indian American lawmakers including Reps. Ro Khanna and Ami Bera of California, as well as local Indian American elected officials like assembly member Ash Kalra and San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju, have not issued any statements so far. 

So far, the only Indian lawmaker to comment on the attacks is Saratoga council member Rishi Kumar “These reprehensible acts of violence against diplomatic missions and their staff are a violation of international norms and principles that govern peaceful diplomacy,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “It is the responsibility of the host countries to ensure the safety and security of diplomatic personnel and their premises,” he wrote. “Diplomatic missions are a crucial part of fostering understanding and cooperation between nations. We must stand together in defending the values of peace, dialogue, and diplomacy against any attempts to undermine them through violence and intimidation.”

Hindu American Foundation’s Samir Kalra called the attacks “an escalation of related incidents we have witnessed over the past year” including “incidents of vandalism at temples in New York City, in Canada, and in Australia.”

Jesse Singh, president of Sikhs of America told American Kahani that the community “strongly condemns the destruction and violence.” Noting that America “allows us to do peaceful protests,” Singh demanded that the people who committed the crime to be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. He said the over 700,000-strong Sikh American community in North America is “peace-loving” and supports development and peace in Punjab.” However, it is a small minority that is propagating for a separate Khalistan, he said. “A handful of people are making the community look bad.” 

Meanwhile, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told porters at a daily news conference on March 20 that the State Department was working with local authorities to investigate the incident and repair the damage.

“The State Department’s diplomatic security service is working with local authorities,” he said. “I can’t speak for the San Francisco police, but I can say that the diplomatic security service is working with local authorities to properly investigate and obviously, the State Department is going to be working from an infrastructure perspective to repair the damage, but it’s unacceptable.” The State Department also issued a statement indicating that those behind the act would be held accountable.

Hindu American Foundation condemned the “anti-India attacks” as well. In a statement sent to American Kahani, managing director Samir Kalra called the attacks “an escalation of related incidents we have witnessed over the past year” including “incidents of vandalism at temples in New York City, in Canada, and in Australia” carried out by “supporters of the Khalistan separatist movement.” He said, “although support for an independent Sikh theocratic state, carved out of India, has been largely dormant in India itself over the past two and a half decades, in the diaspora the Khalistan movement is resurgent and supporters of the movement in the US, Canada and the UK are stoking its embers in India.”

Similarly, the Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS) said it was “appalled by the complete law and order failure in both in London as well as in San Francisco, where a few radicalized separatists attacked India’s diplomatic missions.”

The US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) and the US-India Business Council (USIBC) also condemned the attacks. “The United States and India are vibrant democracies and understand that the right to assemble peacefully and protest is sacrosanct,” read the USISPF statement. “However, violence and vandalism will not be condoned or tolerated.” It urged the local authorities in California and the Congressional leadership of the district to take the necessary action against the culprits and those guilty of aiding and abetting.

Noting that it stood in solidarity with “Indian Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Consul General Dr. T.V. Nagendra Prasad, and the staff at the Consulate in San Francisco,” the USIBC said diplomats and consular staff, “who work every day to enhance the relationship between the world’s oldest and largest democracy, deserve the same right to a secure and peaceful work environment, free from external harm and threats.”

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