From 9/11 to Deputy Dhaliwal: How America has finally put Sikh identity into right perspective

Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal's death has demonstrated that the Sikh diplomacy over the identity issue has fairly s...

Official records suggest when Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal fell in the line of duty, he became 23,854th service martyr in American law-enforcement history.

A sworn peace officer with the Harris County Sheriff's Office, Deputy Dhaliwal was shot and killed while executing a traffic stop late last month. His attacker has been described as an active payroll violator.

His death garnered international attention not because a US officer was fatally shot while on routine patrol but because he was uniquely special to America's diverse nationhood.

Four days after 9/11 happened, Balbir Singh Sodhi was gunned down while pumping gas at his gas station in Arizona...

...It goes without saying that in their community's glorious tradition, the Sikhs, a tiny but a remarkably assertive minority, didn't side with the oppressor but stood for the oppressed and the weak.

In ecosystems as advanced and as rights-conscious as Britain and North America, the wiser lot took over the Sikh identity campaign sooner than expected.

This lot discarded the insidious we-are-not-Muslim subtext and instead promoted who Sikhs are and what they stand for.

On her Twitter handle, activist, lawyer and filmmaker Valarie Kaur proudly identify herself as Sikh American.

Based in Manhattan, Dr Simran Jeet Singh, an accomplished Sikh American professor, forges personal connections across the country's marginalised groups through a variety of mediums, including social media, on-the-air commentaries and columns.

Jo Kaur, another rights activist in the US, identifies herself as a Sikh feminist on her Twitter handle.

In Canada, New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh has repeatedly emphasised the diasporic Sikhs have to put their best foot forward when confronted with racism, stemming especially from Islamophobia...

...The Sikh identity has come of age in the West.

But it's not just outward identity. Remember, many other communities and nationalities wear a variety of headgears and sport beards.

The Sikh identity now stands out in the West because many of the diasporic Sikhs backed it up with values and humanitarian activities, central to the Sikh philosophy and history.

That explains why the American administration, the world's most powerful, overwhelmingly recognised Deputy Dhaliwal's Sikh tradition while paying tribute to the slain officer at state and federal levels.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez described Deputy Dhaliwal as "known to everybody as someone with a giving heart."

He recalled how the deputy had organized a tractor-trailer of supplies to be delivered from California after Hurricane Harvey, and had traveled to Puerto Rico to help a colleague with hurricane relief efforts there, according to a New York Times report.

In a statement, the mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner, called him "a bold and groundbreaking law enforcement officer in the eyes of our county, our state, our nation."

"The story of him putting the Sikh imperative of 'seva' - selfless service - on display as a peacekeeper went worldwide. In that role he was a walking lesson in tolerance and understanding, which are values Houstonians uphold here in the nation's most diverse big city."

Deputy Dhaliwal is gone. But his death has demonstrated that the Sikh diplomacy over the identity issue has fairly succeeded in the international public sphere, more so post 9/11. Rest in peace, Deputy Dhaliwal.

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