The chairman of the Sikh Association of America called upon Americans and their government yesterday to recognize what he called the genocide being committed against Sikhs in India.
Hardam Singh Azad appeared at a National Press Club news conference, one of several events, including a march and demonstration, planned by U.S. Sikhs to coincide with a visit to the White House tomorrow by India's Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
"At least one out of every three Sikh families has been victimized by the arbitrary acts of the barbarian government of India," Azad said. "Many of these Sikh families have links with Sikhs in this country. These U.S. Sikhs are painfully concerned about the fate of their dear ones."
The Sikh Association of America, a nonprofit lobbying group, was formed after the Indian Army assault on the Sikhs' Golden Temple in the city of Amritsar a year ago, an association spokesman said. The assault on the temple angered and united the Sikh world community.
India's government said the temple was being used to house militant Sikhs, who had waged a violent campaign for autonomy in India's northwestern Punjab state.
After Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who ordered the assault on the temple, was assassinated in October, anti-Sikh riots followed and hundreds of Sikhs were killed or forced to flee their homes.
In February, four Sikhs were charged with conspiracy in Gandhi's assassination, which India's high court said occurred because the four "were expressing their sentiments openly holding Mrs. Gandhi responsible" for the assault on the temple.
Azad said that since the assassination, all Sikhs have been unjustly labeled terrorists. "The Sikh Association of America has condemned all violence in the world," he said. "The government of India has not been able to link any acts of terrorism to any organized Sikh movement."
About 6,000 Sikhs are expected to participate in a demonstration and march tomorrow from the White House to the Capitol.