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California State Senator to Don Turban in Solidarity With Sikhs

By Anju Kaur, SikhNN staff writer, Washington Bureau
Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 | 10:11 am

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Photo Source: Darshan Singh Mundy

California state Senator Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, left, and Darshan Singh Mundy, left, spokesman for the West Sacramento gurdwara, addressed the media on Sunday, March 12.

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Photo Source: Darshan Singh Mundy

Bhagat Singh, 7, and his father, Kamaljit Singh, meet California state senator, Darrell Steinberg. Bhagat's grandfather, Gurmej Singh Atwal, is recovering from gun shot wounds from March 4.

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Photo Source: Darshan Singh Mundy

Public officials waiting to address the sangat.

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Photo Source: Darshan Singh Mundy

California state Senator Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg and Darshan Singh Mundy, spokesman for the West Sacramento gurdwara, addressed the sangat on Sunday, March 12.

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Photo Source: Darshan Singh Mundy

Elk Grove Mayor Steve Detrick and Darshan Singh Mundy, left, spokesman for the West Sacramento gurdwara, addressed the West Sacramento gurdwara sangat on Sunday, March 12.

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Photo Source: Darshan Singh Mundy

Elk Grove police captain, Bryan Noblett, addresses the West Sacramento gurdwara's sangat.

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Photo Source: Darshan Singh Mundy

U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner addresses the West Sacramento gurdwara's sangat.

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Photo Source: Darshan Singh Mundy

Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, addresses the West Sacramento gurdwara's sangat.

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Photo Source: Darshan Singh Mundy

West Sacramento City Councilman Mark Johannessen addresses the West Sacramento gurdwara's sangat.

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A top California state senator expressed his solidarity with the Sikh community Sunday by proposing that he will wear a turban for a day.

The gesture was made at the West Sacramento gurdwara, more than a week after two elderly Sikh men were gunned down, one fatally, possibly for wearing dastaars (Sikh turbans). Although the police have not designated the March 4 shootings as hate crimes, the possibility has not been ruled out.

“I have been to the temple before and have been to a number of Sikh events,” said Darrell Steinberg, senate president pro tempore. “It’s very disturbing to have these sorts of terrible things happen in the community.”

On March 12, Steinberg and other public officials and police officers expressed their outrage to hundreds of members of the sangat.

“I talked about how what I have learned about the turban and what it means: a wonderful representation of equality,” he later told SikhNN by phone.

The wear-a-turban-day was his idea, he said. “The turban caused those with hate in their hearts to attack the Sikh community.”

He said he is following the model of a Danish king during World War II who asked his people to wear the Star of David so that the Nazis could not distinguish between them and the Jews.

Steinberg called Darshan Singh Mundy, a Sikh he had known for nearly a decade who is also a spokesman for the gurdwara, about the idea. He wanted to make sure that his wearing a turban would not be disrespectful.

“They were positive about it,” he said. “It’s a community that understandably feels great need for support. And this is a unique and important way to show support.”

The turban day is set for April 13. The local Sikh community is asking public officials to wear a turban or Punjabi suit and chunni. The gurdwara will be hiring a public relations company to help organize the event, Darshan Singh said.

“The only purpose is to educate people about what the turban means and that Sikh Americans are peace loving and contributing members of the Sacramento area and throughout the country,” Steinberg added. “We have to stand together.”

Surinder Singh, 65, and Gurmej Singh Atwal, 78, were shot on March 4 as they strolled through their Elk Grove neighborhood, just southeast of Sacramento, on their daily afternoon walk. There was no apparent motive. Witnessed identified a 1999 to 2003 beige or tan Ford F-150 pickup truck that was seen in the area at the time, but no arrests have been made. Surinder Singh died at the scene, and Gurmej Singh is still in critical condition.

“This is only happenings with Sikhs,” Darshan Singh later said by phone. “They were shot and killed because of 9/11.”

The reward for information leading to an arrest has reached nearly $47,000, he said. Sikh, Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups, as well as civil rights organizations, donated the money.

But this is an issue that will require proactive measures on a grander scale, Darshan Singh said. He is asking legislators and educators to include more materials in schools curriculums about Sikhs. And he also would like to see the Sikh community to form a political action committee to influence legislation and elections on a local, state and national level.

“How come everybody has it, but not us,” he said. “We don’t have a PAC to bring the Sikh community up.”

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