I was going to tell you about the huge turnout today at the US Senate, the most powerful legislative body in the world ! About the overflow crowd at the hearing on hate crimes and the threat of domestic extremism held in the wake of the massacre at the Sikh Gurudwara in Wisconsin on a day, August 5, 2012, that will never be forgotten.
Instead, here are excerpts from the testimony of an 18-year-old Sikh boy, Harpreet Singh Saini, who lost his mother, Paramjit Kaur Saini, in that terrible tragedy. Hardly able to hold back his tears, Harpreet told the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights….
“A little over a month ago, I never imagined I’d be here. I never imagined that anyone outside of Oak Creek would know my name. Or my mother’s name, Paramjit Kaur Saini. Or my brother’s name, Kamaljit Singh Saini. Kamal, my brother and best friend, is here with me today.
As we all know, on Sunday, August 5, 2012, a white supremist fueled by hatred walked into our local Gurudwara with a loaded gun. He killed my mother, Paramjit Kaur, while she was sitting for morning prayers. He shot and killed five more men - all of them were fathers, all had turbans like me.
And now people know all our names: Sita Singh, Ranjit Singh, Prakash Singh, Suvegh Singh, Satwant Singh Kaleka.
This was not supposed to be our American story. This was not my mother’s dream….
It was a Tuesday, two days after our mother was killed, that my brother Kamal and I ate the leftovers of the last meal she had made for us. We ate her last rotis - which are a type of South Asian flatbread. She had made the rotis from scratch the night before she died. Along with the last bite of our food that Tuesday came the realization that this was the last meal made by the hands of our mother that we will ever eat in our lifetime…..
Senators, my mother was our biggest fan, our biggest supporter. She was always there for us. She always had a smile on her face.
But, now she’s gone. Because of a man who hated her because she wasn’t his color? His religion?
I just had my first day of college. And my mother wasn’t there to send me off. She won’t be there for my graduation. She won’t be there on my wedding day. She won’t be there to meet her grandchildren.
I want to tell the gunman who took her from me: You may have been full of hate, but my mother was full of love.
She was an American. And this was not our American dream….
Senators, I came here today to ask the government to give my mother the dignity of being a statistic. The FBI does not track hate crimes against Sikhs. My mother and those shot that day will not even count on a federal form. We cannot solve a problem we refuse to recognize.
Senators, I also ask that the government pursue domestic terrorism with the same vigor as attackers from abroad. The man who killed my mother was on the watch list of public interest groups. I believe the government could have tracked him long before he went on a shooting spree.
Finally, Senators, I ask that you stand up for us. As lawmakers and leaders, you have the power to shape public opinion. Your words carry weight. When others scapegoat or demean people because of who they are, use your power to say that is wrong.
So many have asked Sikhs to simply blame Muslims for attacks against our community or just say, “We are not Muslim”. But, we won’t blame anyone else. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.
I also want to be a part of the solution. That’s why I want to be a law enforcement officer like Lieutenant Brian Murphy who saved so many lives on August 5, 2012. I want to protect other people from what happened to my mother. I want to combat hate - not just against Sikhs, but against all people.
Senators, I know what happened at Oak Creek was not an isolated incident. I fear it may happen again if we don’t stand up and do something.
I don’t want anyone to suffer what we have suffered. I want to build a world where all people can live, work and worship in America in peace.
Because you see, despite everything, I still believe in the American dream. In my mother’s memory, I ask that you stand up for it with me, today, and in the days to come…”
Hope it touches every heart !!
Photo: Harpreet Singh Saini after testifying in a hearing on hate crimes and the threat of domestic extremism in the US Senate, earlier today. At left is Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (Democrat-Illinois), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights