Sikh temple victim's sons to testify on Capitol Hill - [with an UPDATE]
Sep. 18, 2012: OAK CREEK - In the living room of their home, Harpreet and Kamaljit Saini told TODAY'S TMJ4 reporter Tom Murray they are not confident public speakers. "Before we couldn't even speak in a class of 24 and now, me and him are speaking to thousands of people. That's amazing," Harpreet said.
They are getting ready to address powerful politicians and national media cameras on Capitol Hill. Harpreet, 18, and Kamaljit, 20, will appear in front of members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. They are brothers and best friends. They lost their beloved mother Paramjit Kaur in the shooting rampage at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin.
"To be honest, what I miss most is the yelling," Kamaljit recounted with a smile. "She would get out of work at 3:00. As soon as she would get out the door, she'd call me, 'where are you?'"
"She would be home and I would make tea for her at this time," Harpreet added. "She would be here and if I didn't make tea for her, she would yell at me."
The hearing is called "Hate Crimes and the Threat of Domestic Extremism." Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Justice and FBI leaders will also appear.
Paramjit brought her sons from India to Wisconsin in 2004 seeking the American dream. She became a victim of one this nation's worst acts of violence.
"For somebody who was so close to both of our hearts, from them to be gone that fast, it's just unbelievable," said Kamaljit
In front of the influential subcommittee, Harpreet and Kamaljit will call for the government to track hate crimes against Sikhs and for closer monitoring of supremacists like temple gunman Wade Page.
"If you can't call this terrorism than what is? Define terrorism. You don't have to be a foreigner to be called a terrorist," said Kamaljit. "This was an act of terrorism."
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin) is on the subcommittee that will hear the testimony.
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele plans to attend.
"The deadly temple shooting happened in our community but I know the pain of it was felt across the country," Abele said in a statement. "I applaud Senator Durbin and others on the subcommittee who are taking this issue so seriously and talking about solutions. We need to make sure something like this never happens again."
The hearing is set for 1:30 CST Wednesday.
An UPDATE from SIKH COALITION:
September 20, 2012 (Washington, DC) – Over 400 people attended a Senate subcommittee hearing yesterday to watch Harpreet Singh Saini deliver an emotional tribute to his mother, who was one of six worshipers whose lives were taken during the Aug. 5th attack on the Oak Creek Gurdwara. Harpreet also made history by being the first Sikh to testify at a U.S. Senate hearing.
With his brother Kamaljit by his side, and backed by Oak Creek community members Amardeep and Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka, Harpreet moved the hearing room to tears with his courageous and heartfelt testimony, saying “I want to tell the gunman who took her from me: You may have been full of hate, but my mother was full of love.”
Senate Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, paid tribute to the Oak Creek community by displaying photographs of those who lost their lives: Paramjit Kaur Saini, Sita Singh, Ranjit Singh, Prakash Singh, Suvegh Singh, Satwant Singh Kaleka.
Of note, the United States Justice Department representative at the hearing stated that by “mid-October” the decision of the Justice Department on the longstanding Sikh demand to create an anti-Sikh hate crime category “would be known.”
Yesterday’s historic hearing was convened after more than 150 organizations, led by the Sikh Coalition, requested the hearing in a joint letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 21.
The Coalition thanks Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin for his leadership in convening the hearing. The Coalition is also deeply thankful to the over 400 people, mostly Sikhs, who completely filled both the hearing room and the hearing overflow room. Their service in attending yesterday’s historic hearing made a clear statement to the Senate that Sikhs will stand up for both their rights and the rights of all. The Sikh Coalition is also grateful to Harpreet Singh Saini for exemplary courage and leadership in offering his testimony.
As always, the Sikh Coalition encourages all Sikhs to fearlessly practice their faith.
"While speaking today about our mother and our loss was difficult, it was necessary. My brother and I are grateful that the Senate heard our testimony. We would like to thank the Sikh Coalition for making the hearing and today's testimony happen. They supported us every step of the way."
– Kamaljit Singh Saini,
Brother of Harpreet Singh Saini
Sikh Coalition Testimony