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US: Socio-political groups condemn Sikhs for Justice's flag burning campaign

ANI | Updated: Jan 26, 2019 20:33 IST

Washington D.C. [U.S.A.], Jan 26 (ANI): Several political, social and religious groups have strongly denounced the announcement by an organisation 'Sikhs for Justice' (SFJ) to burn the National Flag of India in a park across from the Indian Embassy here on Saturday to mark the occasion of 70th Republic Day.
To mark the occasion, the Indian Embassy is hosting an open celebration. In a media announcement, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), an advocacy group calling for the separation of North Indian State of Punjab from India, has announced plans to burn the National Flag of India, reported India America Today.

In a joint statement, Sikhs of America's president Kamaljit Singh Soni and chairman Jesse Singh have condemned SFJ's decision “in the strongest terms."
“Sikhs reside and have businesses not only all over India but also boast a global presence. Such theatrical protests like flag burning are detrimental to the peace-loving and harmony enhancing Sikh community everywhere," Soni and Singh said.
They further urged SFJ to have a dialogue with the Indian government regarding any issues. They noted that Sikhs have achieved “a lot recently through dialogue with the Indian government, solving some of the key issues that were faced by the Sikhs for decades.”
Suresh K. Gupta, Chairman, National Council of Asian Indian Association (NCAIA) and President, Asian-American Inter Community Service, said, “I denounce this strongly and am outraged, at such behaviour of others, in our community.”
Gupta termed it as a “shameful propaganda.”
Resonating similar sentiments, President of NCAIA, Pavan Bezwada said, “It is very unfortunate and shameful that some fringe elements are threatening to burn the Indian flag on such a historic day. I join the multitude of NRIs in condemn this disgraceful act and insulting act against our motherland.”
Bezwada further expressed his appreciation of the invigorated efforts of the new Indian Ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla noting, “an elevated sense of enthusiasm in mobilizing and reaching out to the community to join in the celebration. This is encouraging and greatly appreciated.”
Meanwhile, Harsh Sethi, President, American Hindu Coalition (AHC), said, “The intent of flag burning is also an immense affront to the largest democracy on the earth and causing huge grief to the American Hindus.”
On behalf of the entire AHC membership, Sethi who himself has a Sikh inheritance urged the SFJ “to stop this act.”
Attorney Ravi Batra from New York highlighted the essence of Bill of Rights, saying, flag burning by an American is both emotionally offensive and legally protected political speech.
Explaining the legal intricacies of such actions, Attorney Batra said, “What SFJ – an American-born and accredited entity is seeking to do, however – is to burn the flag of another nation – and here is the critical part – as part of a campaign, allegedly, as an unregistered foreign agent engaging in terrorist activities in India.”
A local Republican leader and Sikh Indian-American Puneet Ahluwalia said, "I am a proud American who is proud of his Indian heritage and Sikh faith. But I will not stand for these forces to develop a misguided narrative with US leadership and the public, besides polarizing the already sensitivities towards minorities in India.”
He added, “Numerous Sikhs died and fought to raise the Indian flag during the freedom struggle against the ruthless British colonialism. Martyred Sikh soldiers of Indian army have been laid to rest in defending and wrapped in the glory of that flag. No democracy is perfect but it is the conscious of the liberty-loving citizens who should stand to protect and fight for it here and elsewhere.” (ANI)