As the Sikh community in the US observed first anniversary of the Wisconsin gurudwara shootout, American lawmakers have welcomed decision of the Department of Justice to include crimes against Sikh community as hate crimes.
"We know that senseless hate crimes are occurring, but we need better data on the scope of the problem. By accurately tracking hate crimes against American Sikhs and other communities at risk, we'll be able to better devote the resources and community intervention required to stamp out hate," Congressman John Garamendi said.
"On the first anniversary of the horrific terror attack at the Oak Creek Sikh temple, we owe it to the victims to be more proactive in stopping future attacks," he said.
On Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder had announced that the FBI will move forward with the plan and begin officially identifying hate crimes perpetrated against Sikh, Hindu, Arab, Buddhist, Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, and Orthodox Christian individuals.
In March, Garamendi had joined more than 100 members of Congress in writing an FBI advisory board to express strong support for an initiative to begin tracking and quantifying hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu and Arab-Americans.
Garamendi said anecdotal and non-government data indicate that the commission of hate crimes against members of these minority groups has become a deadly problem.
"The massacre at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and the murder of a Hindu Senando Sen on the New York City subway, along with attacks across the US, underscore the severity of the issue," he said.
According to community surveys in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, approximately 10 per cent of Sikh-Americans felt they had already been a victim of a hate crimes. The perpetrators admit often that they committed these heinous actions out of hatred, the lawmaker said.
Indian-American Congressman Ami Bera noted that the Sikh community has been a victim of hate crime and discrimination post 9/11 attacks. Bera also lauded the FBI decision with regard to the hate crimes.
"Our own community has not been immune from this violence. In 2011, two elderly Sikh Americans were shot while out for a walk in Elk Grove. The Oak Creek shooting is another horrific example of violence and intolerance against Sikhs," he said.
Meanwhile in Oak Creek, a 'Chardhi Kala 6k Walk/Run' was organised by local youths on Saturday, which was also attended by representatives from the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut which also had witnessed a shooting incident leading to many fatalities.
Oak Creek Gurdwara held a 'Divaan' on Sunday in memory of the attack.
New York-based 'Sikh for Justice' has given a reward of USD 13,000 to police officer Brian Murphy, in recognition to his service to protect lives of people during the shooting.
Hate crimes based on race, religion and sexual orientation keep on increasing year by year. About 20% of hate crimes are religion related. Since designation as "hate crime" brings in federal agencies, especially the FBI, the chances of the culprits getting off with a light sentence because of shared prejudices with local populations are markedly diminished.