Washington: Admitting that there has been a rise in hate crime against Asian-Americans, US President Joe Biden mourned the loss of Sikhs in a shooting by a white supremacist at a gurdwara of Wisconsin nine years ago.
"On this day, in 2012, I was with another friend who's half Sikh--he's a Sikh. And we were dealing with 10 people shot in a hateful act of bigotry at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Seven people lost their lives that day. Today, we honour everyone impacted by the tragedy," Biden told reporters at the White House.
In an interaction with reporters during his meeting with AAPP civil rights leaders, Biden acknowledged that there has been a rise in hate crimes, harassment, bullying and other forms of bias against Asian-Americans during the pandemic.
It seems not to stop, he said.
Several Indian Americans were invited to attend Biden's meeting at the White House.
Prominent among them were Seema Agnani from the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD); Satjeet Kaur from Sikh Coalition; Kiran Kaur Gill from Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF); and Neil Makhija from Indian American Impact.
In a separate statement, Rajwant Singh, chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, thanked Biden for his "compassion" and a "strong stand" against hate and violence.
"The Sikh community was shaken by this tragedy and our community still is concerned about the hate filled rhetoric being condoned by some political interest groups," he said.
"The White supremacist groups are on the rise in the recent years and are intimidating many other minority groups in America. President Biden and Vice-President Harris's stand is unambiguous on this critical issue. This is the most important message that our political leaders can send across the nation and the world," Singh said.
Congresswoman Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), said "Today, we remember and honour the seven victims of this domestic terror attack and rededicate ourselves to the values of peace and openness that characterise the Sikh religion."
"We must also finally reject the white supremacy, xenophobia and bigotry that continue to fan the flames of hate and put more lives at risk, while taking action to end the gun violence that allows attackers to make their hatred fatal. Every American, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity deserves to feel safe at home and in their own community, she said.
Nine years ago, the lives of innocent worshippers were taken in a senseless act of hate and violence at a Sikh gurdwara, said Congresswoman Grace Meng.
"These worshippers were targeted simply because of their religious identity, a pattern that is all too common in the Sikh Community," she said.
"As we continue to grieve with the victims' families and the Sikh community, we must reaffirm our commitment to combating hate and intolerance wherever it exists."
"We must continue to denounce these senseless killings rooted in xenophobia and bigotry and enact policies to protect all Americans from gun violence and racism," said Congressman Ted Lieu.
"In the nine years since a white supremacist took six beautiful lives and wounded four other loved ones as they worshipped at their gurdwara in Oak Creek, we have only continued to witness an abhorrent rise in hate, violence, and discrimination aimed at the AAPI community," Indian American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said.
Remembering the victims of the hate crime, Congresswoman Barbara Lee said the country must recommit to fighting xenophobia, racism and gun violence.
"These acts of violence do not reflect our country's values and I remain committed to supporting and addressing harm perpetrated against the Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian communities. Now more than ever, we need comprehensive gun control and to combat racism and bigotry towards communities of colour," she said.
"The shooting at the Oak Creek Gurdwara in Wisconsin nine years ago today reminds us that bigotry begets violence. Over the past few years, we have seen an alarming rise in hate crimes and white supremacy, and deliberate targeting of religious minorities and people of color, including Sikh-Americans," said Congresswoman Katherine Clarke.
"We will not forget the worshippers who were lost that day, nor can we ever lose sight of our fundamental values of equality and justice for all. Our duty as a nation is to stand up to violence and hatred wherever it may arise," she said.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said to this day, America continues to grapple with systemic racism and inequality.
"It is more important than ever that we recommit ourselves to rejecting hate and intolerance in all forms. These acts of violence and hate are not reflective of our country's values and we must proactively work to end them by passing legislation to end gun violence, she said.
Six people were killed and four others injured when 40-year-old Wade Michael Page, a white supremacist and US Army veteran, opened indiscriminate firing in a Gurudwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, on 5 August, 2012.
At least 20 people were also injured when at least one shooter opened fire indiscriminately amid reports that 12 children were taken as hostages at the Sikh shrine.
With PTI inputs