The Kerman City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday night to recognize the anti-Sikh violence of 1984 in India as a genocide.
Thousands of Sikh civilians were killed after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards.
Kerman became one of the first cities in the U.S. to consider the deaths a genocide. The city of San Joaquin passed a similar resolution this year and Stockton passed a proclamation. Last year, the city of Harvey, Ill., passed a resolution.
The national advocacy group Sikhs for Justice requested the Kerman resolution in an Oct. 23 letter to the City Council. Genocide means the deliberate killing of a racial, ethnic, religious or national group.
More than 40 Sikh supporters packed Kerman City Hall for Wednesday night’s vote. They sang a hymn and held signs reading, “India committed genocide against Sikhs.”
The Indian government estimates 3,000 people died during that period. Sikh advocacy groups say that number is much higher – 30,000 Sikhs killed, thousands of women raped, hundreds of temples burned and more than 300,000 displaced. Many of those displaced ended up in California.
I could feel your heart beat and the struggle you went through.
Kerman Mayor Stephen Hill, commending those who spoke
Jasbir Singh, 49, of Hayward testified before the City Council about his experience as a survivor. Through an interpreter, he said his wife and 25 other members of his family were murdered in New Delhi. He saw a teenaged girl being raped by seven men on the street. He came to the United States in 2002 under political asylum.
Mayor Stephen Hill commended those who spoke for their courage to try to stop further acts of violence on their people.
“I could feel your heart beat and the struggle you went through,” he said.
Sikhism, which promotes equality, compassion and tolerance, is the world’s fifth-largest religion. More than 30,000 Sikhs live in the central San Joaquin Valley.
Kerman, a city of 14,000 people, has a majority Latino population. But Punjabi immigrants have helped reshape the community in the last two decades.