Sikh PAC declines to endorse Bera

Citizen file photo - Ami Bera

An American Sikh Political Action Committee (PAC) official said his group will not  endorse U.S. Rep. Dr. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) since they accuse him of being unwilling  to condemn the Indian government for a 1984 massacre.

More than 8,000 Sikhs, including 3,000 in Delhi, were killed by mobs during riots following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, reportedly by her Sikh bodyguards.

Elk Grove resident and PAC treasurer Amar Shergill said Bera, the only Indian-American in Congress, should condemn the Indian government for its alleged involvement in the deaths.

The request from Shergill, a former Bera supporter, comes as the Congressman is working with the Indian government and businesses to conduct business in the United States.

“As a longtime supporter of Dr. Bera, I am shocked and disappointed that he is the only Congressional representative in the Sacramento area that has refused to acknowledge that the Indian government was responsible for the 1984 slaughter of thousands of Sikhs,” he said. “Dr. Bera apparently is more interested in protecting the Indian government than he is in speaking the truth about a genocide.”

Bera through his communications director acknowledged the 1984 “tragedy” but didn’t condemn the Indian government.

“There is no question that the 1984 riots were a terrible tragedy that should never be repeated,” he said. “Communal violence is intolerable, and India and all countries, including the U.S., must respect religious diversity.”

Shergill, who personally contributed to Bera’s 2010 and 2012 campaigns, said he would reconsider his personal support of the incumbent if Bera would note the Indian government’s responsibility in the incident.

But he said Bera’s “failure on this fundamental issue of human rights has caused a rift” with the PAC and the Sikh community.

Shergill and other Sikhs including Elk Grove Unified School District Trustee Bobbie Singh-Allen spoke at a forum in July regarding the 30-year-old incident.

“The government did nothing. To this day, the government has failed to prosecute or bring anyone to justice,” she said. “Human rights organizations around the world and newspapers around the world have reported that the attacks against the Sikhs were organized by the very government who was supposed to protect its people. India did nothing.”

She added, “If 1984 was not genocide, I don’t know what is.”

Singh-Allen, who is not an American Sikh PAC member, said she continues to support Bera, and said she and her children will walk precincts for Bera, just as they did for the candidate in 2012 before he defeated Republican incumbent Dan Lungren.

“We may not agree 100 percent on every issue. I don’t agree with anyone 100 percent of the time,” she wrote in an email. “That’s the power of living in a democracy.”

Shergill said the PAC is a “state registered” group that is prohibited from contributing directly to Congressional candidates.

Individual members of the PAC are allowed to contribute to Congressional candidates, and Shergill said the first fundraiser he ever held raised about $10,000 for Bera in 2010.

Federal Election Commission documents indicate Shergill and his wife during the 2011-12 election cycle contributed $2,000 to Bera, $450 to Lungren, and $1,500 to Ricky Gill, a Republican who lost to U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton) in 2012 to represent Galt and northern San Joaquin County.

However, the PAC has given to several candidates who want to represent Elk Grove at city, county, state, or school levels.

Singh-Allen, who is running unopposed for the Elk Grove school board, received $3,001 from the PAC in March. That same month, City Council candidates Nancy Chaires and Steve Ly received matching $501 contributions from the PAC.

Also in March, Elk Grove Vice Mayor Jim Cooper and Sacramento City Council Member Darrell Fong, two Democrats running to represent Elk Grove in the State Assembly, each received $1,001 from the PAC.