Washington: The Indian-American community has applauded the recommendation of a FBI panel this week to track hate crimes against Sikhs and Hindus in the US, noting that this is the first step in the right direction.
"It`s a good first step to addressing and quantifying these kinds of crimes and getting to their root cause," said Dr Ami Bera, the only Indian-American Congressman in the current House of Representatives, who was one of the leading lawmakers behind such a move.
"I hope that the FBI will swiftly implement the board`s recommendations and begin tracking these crimes as soon as possible," he said.
The FBI Advisory Policy Board on Wednesday recommended tracking hate crime against Sikhs, Hindus and Arab Americans, thus meeting one of the long pending demands of these minority communities, who have increasingly been targetted post 9/11 in the United States.
"The memory of the tragedy at Oak Creek is still fresh, and in my own community of Elk Grove, two Sikh men were murdered in 2011 in a probable hate crime. Violence and discrimination against these communities is a real and important civil rights issue in the US, and we must do everything we can to prevent it in the future," Bera said.
Welcoming the recommendation, the Hindu-American Foundation hoped that the FBI Director Robert Mueller would quickly approve its implementation.
"Law-enforcement agencies will now be better able to track and assess trends in hate crimes against these communities and, most importantly, provide better protection," said Samir Kalra, HAF director and senior human rights fellow.
HAF had submitted comments to the FBI`s Criminal Justice Information Services Advisory Policy Board, specifically focusing on the importance of creating an anti-Hindu hate crime category and its significance for tracking hate crimes against Hindu American institutions and individuals.
"We are grateful to the FBI`s advisory policy board for recognising that Sikhs are targeted because of their distinct Sikh identity, especially their turbans, and for voting to give our community the dignity of recognition," Said Dalwinder Singh Dhoot chairman of North American Punjabi Association.
After years of pressure from civil rights groups and lawmakers, the FBI Advisory Policy Board recommended tracking hate crimes against Sikhs, Hindus and Arab Americans.
To date, the FBI has not collected and tracked hate crimes against these communities - despite serious hate crimes perpetrated against the community members.
The move was also welcomed by top American lawmakers.
According to Sikh Coalition surveys, approximately 10 per cent of Sikhs in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area alone have experienced physical violence or property damage because of their religion.
According to the US Commission on Civil Rights, rates of bullying against Sikh children "range from roughly half to over three-quarters."