Gurbakhash Kaur: Standing Up For Our Rights

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One of the major issues affecting the Sikh community is increasing civic engagement in the United States. We often focus on getting more Sikhs to vote and lobby our politicians about the issues affecting our community. This lobbying general pertains to writing letters and signing petitions that ask our community members to move beyond taking pictures with politicians at fundraising events or giving them awards at local melas. This past week, a young Sikh woman, Gurbakhash Kaur, highlighted what it means for a Sikh to be civically engaged. She questioned Vice President Biden about two Sikhs in the United States Army who were told to cut their hair in order to serve and Governor Jon Corzine about rising health education costs, while her Sikh peers stood by her side. These handshaking events were not a forum set-up for accountability, but more as photo-ops for the politicians. However, Gurbakhash Kaur was determined to make hand-shaking an opportunity to hold our elected officials accountable to their Sikh constituency.

As a resident of Lodi, New Jersey, she got face-time with Vice President Biden during his visit for a new construction project to widen Main Street and US Route 46. During her questioning, World Sikh News reports that:

Vice President Biden interrupted Kaur to tell her a member of his staff is a Sikh and did not allow her to finish her question. Afterwards, Kaur said, “I want the story to get coverage, as hardly anyone pays attention to our issues . . . we need a lot more legal support and begging and pleading to get our issues addressed.”

Ultimately, Gurbakhash Kaurs actions are inspiring because she highlights an example of Sikhs standing up for our rights through self-empowerment. More importantly, she acted through self-organizing rather than taking part in an event organized by other groups to mobilize the Sikh community.

Kuddos to Gurbakhash Kaur for demanding accountability from our elected officials!


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