Washington, April 21, 2015: U.S Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, warmly accepted the Seva Award from the Sikhs in Washington at the headquarters of the Department of Justice.
As head of the Justice Department which is one of the largest agencies of the United States government, Eric Holder, while accepting this honor from the Sikhs, said, ” I am honored to receive this award and this is something that I receive on behalf of the men and women of the Department of Justice.”
He appreciated the relationship between the Sikhs and the US government and said, “We have tried to foster a spirit of cooperation and understanding between those of us in government and the people that we serve. The Sikh community has been critical part of our efforts to reach to many communities here in the United States.”
He promised Sikhs for future cooperation and support and said, “I want to thank you again for this recognition. This is just an indication of where we are but also a pledge on part of the Justice Department that this relationship continues and it is enhanced in future.”
Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, based in Rockville, MD, along with the National Sikh Center, honored the Top lawyer of the United States as part of the Vaisakhi celebrations. According to the Chairman of GGSF, Inder Paul Singh Gadh, every year, the Foundation chooses to honor an individual or an organization which contributes towards the betterment of the Sikh community worldwide. Gadh said, “This year, we felt that there is no one more deserving than Mr. Eric Holder, the 82nd Attorney General of the United States, who has contributed tremendously towards the betterment of the Sikhs in the United States.”
Eric Holder was honored with a Siropa (a robe of honor) and a Sewa Service Award. Seven members of the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation were present during this ceremony at the headquarters of the Department of Justice in the nation’s capital.
A special prayer was performed in a room, which previously was home to Robert Kennedy’s office, while the Sikhs clasped their hands in prayer in the presence of the nation’s chief lawyer. A traditional prayer called ardas was performed with a special blessings being sought for the Attorney General and for the nation. A robe of honor was presented and placed around Eric Holder’s neck in a traditional Sikh manner. In addition, an honorary plaque and a book on Sikhs were presented to Mr. Holder. He was also presented a Phulkari, a traditional Punjabi embroidered shawl with bright floral craft by Romi Kaur Sawhney, the Executive Director of GGSF. The Attorney General thanked the Sikhs while wearing this honorary robe and the shawl.
Dr. Rajwant Singh, Secretary of the GGSF, who also performed the prayer for Mr. Holder, said “We are very grateful to the Attorney General for his exemplary service to the nation and for his positive role in assuring that all communities, including the Sikh community, are safe during these challenging times especially in the aftermath of the terrible shooting at the Oak Creek Gurdwara.
Honoring him in the spirit of the Sikh holiday Vaisakhi, which teaches us to stand up for the rights of others, is an honorable thing to do in my opinion.”
Dr. Singh added, “We feel that the Attorney General’s role on race issues is also bold and decisive, and has added a constructive dialogue in confronting challenging issues. Him being a minority person in this high position certainly has given inspiration to kids from all minorities especially Sikhs to aspire for this high office.”
Harminder Singh Jassal, a board member of GGSF said, “On behalf of the entire Sikh community, we wanted to express our deep appreciation and support for his courageous leadership for supporting Sikhs and other minorities for protecting their civil rights and freedom and religious expressions. We all prayed for him and the DOJ staff and for the entire nation.”
Romi Kaur said “It was a very exciting moment for all Sikhs, especially for GGSF to be invited to the Attorney General’s office for a one-on-one meeting. It was an historic event. Attorney General Holder was very gracious in receiving the plaque. I believe he was genuinely humbled and pleasantly surprised by our gesture.”
Chattar Singh Saini, Board Member of GGSF and the Chairman of the National Sikh Center, said, “The Department of Justice under the leadership of Eric Holder has served the nation well and we as a community have been helped by sensitivity training programs, know your rights seminars, and various programs by the DOJ. The recent inclusion of the monitoring of the hate crimes against the Sikhs is especially notable. These solid steps are beneficial to hundreds of thousands of Sikhs in the USA and members of other communities as well. We are thrilled to give him this award on behalf of the Sikhs.”
The DOJ has recently started tracking hate crimes against Sikhs. This will produce Sikh-specific data on how many hate crimes Sikhs endure, and the overall kinds of biases people of South Asian descent face.
This moment was also an unforgettable for members of the Sikh community. Arvinder Singh, Treasurer of GGSF, said “I feel very excited to be at the DOJ headquarters while we are honoring a cabinet member of President Obama. Eric Holder as an attorney of the United States has shown that he cares for the Sikhs. He deserves to be honored.”
Ravi Singh, Board member of GGSF and Coordinator of GGSF’s Outreach Committee, said, “Today the Sikh community honored AG Eric Holder with the Sewa (Service) Award for his dedication and hard work to bring justice to all Americans and especially keeping minorities and their rights in perspective. We are all safe and living peacefully due to all the efforts to keep us and our nation safe by AG Eric Holder, the DOJ and the Obama administration. It was an honor to meet the AG and visit the historical DOJ building. The AG was so gracious and received us with such warmth. We have extended him the invitation to visit the GGSF Gurudwara and hope to see him with his family in the near future.”
Last year GGSF had honored Brian Murphy of Oak Creek Gurdwara who was hit with 15 bullets while he fought with a gun man who killed Sikhs in the Wisconsin Gurdwara in 2012.