SOUTHINGTON — The Southington Town Council presented members of the local Sikh community with a proclamation acknowledging the 1984 genocide that took the lives of thousands of Sikhs in India.
“It is my honor to recognize and offer my sincere condolences for the horrific anti-Sikh programs which claimed the lives of thousands in 1984,” said Town Council Chairman Mike Riccio. “People were beaten with irons and their hair was forcibly shorn. Sikhs as young as 13 years old were burned alive, mothers were gang raped and homes were destroyed. Numerous law enforcement agencies, human rights activists and government organizations around the world acknowledge these events as a genocide and demand justice.”
Kanwaljit Singh, his brother-in-law, Surinder Pal Singh, and his wife, Parminder Kaur, accepted the proclamation along with other family members.
“We want to express our thanks to this council for helping make sure this never happens again,” he said. “We are thankful to the city for recognizing the 150,000 people whose lives were lost.”
Councilor Victoria Triano said she had been council chairwoman on Sept. 11, 2001, and thanked Sikh religious leaders for reaching out and helping the community to understand them.
“We will always remember the holocaust your people suffered,” she said.
Councilor Ed Pocock III thanked the Sikhs for being involved in the community.
“It is an honor to know how hard you work and how dedicated you are to this country,” he said.
Locally, the Sikh community worships at a temple near Cava Restaurant, near the Southington-Bristol line. The temple was co-founded by Manmohan Singh, who attended the meeting and has lived in town for 35 years, He serves on the board for Bread for Life. He also founded the Sikh temple in Hamden.
“You have done a commendable job today,” he said. “You are on the right side of history.”
Bhai Komal Singh, a former priest at the local temple, was also in attendance. He will be opening a new place of worship in Windsor soon.
Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, a Norwich city planner, said there are 50 to 60 Sikh families in Southington and 500 in the state. There are four temples in Hartford County.
“Two years ago we received a similar proclamation in Norwich,” he said. “The assassination of Indira Gandi was an act carried out by a single Sikh whose heart was broken after the government used its own military to destroy the Golden Temple, which is like the Vatican City of our faith. It was an action he made on his own. In return, the state started killing all Sikhs. The leaders of India’s congress involved in inciting genocide are still not behind bars. Those wounds are still open; no justice has prevailed.”
Singh Khalsa said 15 California communities have passed legislation recognizing the killings as a genocide. He said Southington would be the first town on the East Coast to do so.
“I thank the Town of Southington. Their actions speak louder than words,” he said. “This shows that they understand the pain and violence that was inflicted upon us. Their actions show that they are empowering minorities, embracing diversity and appealing to other towns to follow their lead.”