Sikhism has 500,000 adherents in the US.
By Deepak Chitnis
WASHINGTON, DC: A new Resolution, introduced by Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) in the House of Representatives, aims to officially commemorate the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi.
HR 550 would simply recognize the Vaisakhi festival, and really just calls for the House of Representatives to wish “the Sikh American community a joyous Vaisakhi.”
The bill lists several reasons as to why the Sikh holiday should be nationally commemorated, including that Sikhism has 500,000 adherents in the US and 25 million worldwide, that Sikhs in the US “pursue diverse professions and walks of life, making rich contributions to the economic vibrancy of the United States,” and that “Sikh Americans continue to make strides toward securing religious liberty as patriotic members of the United States Armed Forces.”
The bill already has thirteen co-sponsors in addition to Garamendi: Ami Bera (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), Joseph Crowley (D-CA), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-NY), Dina Titus (D-NV), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Rush Holt (D-NJ).
The Vaisakhi festival is an annual celebration that occurs in the middle of April, in which Sikhs celebrate the creation of the Khalsa, a historic group of the most devout Sikhs, in 1699. In modern times, the festival has developed into including a celebration of the harvest season, and is generally accompanied by the performance of “seva,” or selfless volunteer service, as well as all kinds of pomp and show – food, music, dancing, and colors are all cornerstones of Vaisakhi, regardless of where in the world it is celebrated.
In announcing HR 550, Garamendi said that he was proud to be standing by the Sikh community in his constituency – California’s 3rd Congressional District. The District includes much of the area in an around Solano and Sacramento counties, the latter of which has a significant Indian American and Sikh population. In fact, the local Sacramento Kings NBA team is hosting its own Sikh Community Night on April 13, in Sacramento.
“I proudly represent one of the largest Sikh communities in the nation,” said Garamendi. “For decades, we have confronted the challenges of California together, including education and our current drought. It is in this spirit of cooperation and friendship that I wish Sikhs across America and across the world a most joyous Vaisakhi.”
Simran Kaur, Advocacy Manager for the Sikh Coalition, applauded the move to recognize Vaisakhi less than one year after Congress held its first-ever official celebration of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.
“We are grateful to the resolution sponsors for highlighting the important contributions of Sikh Americans to their communities in all walks of life,” said Kaur. “Sikhs are an integral part of the American fabric, and we look forward to celebrating Vaisakhi with our fellow Americans.”
This is not Garamendi’s first attempt to introduce Sikhism-themed legislation on the floor of the House. In 2013, he was one of the key lawmakers behind an initiative to persuade the FBI to track hate crimes against the Sikh, Hindu and Arab communities in the US. The legislation was passed into law, with the support of more than 100 Congressmen.