USAC passes resolution in favor of naming November Sikh Heritage Month
Kerchkoff Hall is pictured. The Undergraduate Students Association Council unanimously approved a resolution to observe November as Sikh Heritage Month. (Daily Bruin file photo)
By Lex Wang
Dec. 4, 2023 10:35 p.m.
The Undergraduate Students Association Council passed a resolution calling on the UC to recognize November as Sikh Heritage Month.
The resolution, which passed unanimously Nov. 14, acknowledges the historical trauma and ongoing violence experienced by the Sikh community, as well as the community’s contributions in the state of California and beyond. In addition to advocating for November to officially become the month of remembrance for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and massacres in India that killed over 30,000 Sikhs – which the California State Assembly recognized as a genocide in July – the resolution also memorializes efforts to stand up against anti-Sikh violence.
Manroop Turna, a member of the Jakara Movement Chapter at UCLA – which advocates for Sikh political voices on campus – said the resolution raises awareness about the brutality Sikhs have faced and the community’s attempts to seek justice for itself. Turna, a first-year human biology and society student, said she believes it is critical to hold on to the knowledge of her culture through acts of commemoration such as the resolution, adding that she fears the Sikh community’s history may be lost if it is not passed down to future generations of the diaspora.
“In passing the resolution or in doing things that acknowledge our Sikh values or Sikh predisposition, we try to remind ourselves that we were almost gone at one point,” Turna said. “If we don’t do something, or if we don’t fight back against the world and everything around us, then that initial wish (of anti-Sikh sentiment) might come true. I believe that resonates with all of us.”
Six USAC representatives, led by primary sponsor Internal Vice President Megan Law, sponsored the resolution with the support of four student organizations: the Sikh Student Association at UCLA, JMC, Bhagat Puran Singh Health Initiative and Giddhe Diyan Ranyian.
General Representative Jonathan Valenzuela Mejia, who co-sponsored the resolution, said that as student leaders of the university, USAC has a responsibility to acknowledge and make efforts to understand students from all backgrounds at UCLA.
“I signed onto it immediately,” said Valenzuela Mejia, a fourth-year global studies and public affairs student. “I understand the impact of wanting to have your community recognized and supported. As an act of solidarity with the Sikh community, it was essential for me to support this resolution.”
External Vice President Eva Jussim, a co-sponsor of the resolution and fourth-year political science student, said that while Sikhism is the fifth-most-practiced religion in the world – with almost 500,000 Sikhs residing in California, according to the resolution – she believes the history of the community has mostly gone unrecognized at UCLA.
Jussim added that she believes the Sikh community’s contributions to California and the rest of the United States have not received the attention and appreciation they deserve. The resolution recognizes the accomplishments Sikhs have made across various fields such as agriculture and information technology.
“I was really excited when this came across my desk,” Jussim said. “I hope that it’s the start of more progress towards their recognition.”
Law and other co-sponsors could not be reached for comment in time for publication.
Turna added that resolutions similar to the one voted on by USAC have been passed at other UC campuses.
“UCLA was just working to become one of the group (of UC campuses),” she said. “UCLA is known very worldwide, and to have that resolution would be a very big movement for us.”
Copies of the USAC resolution will be forwarded to UC President Michael Drake, as well as administrative leaders at UCLA, including Chancellor Gene Block and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Darnell Hunt, according to the resolution.
Although the events outlined in the resolution occurred decades ago, Turna said the history still affects the Sikh community, particularly as members of the community continue to face the threat of hate crimes. The FBI recorded 198 instances of hate crimes in the U.S. against Sikhs in 2022 – the highest number yet.
Seeing USAC take measures to acknowledge her and her community’s history has been deeply impactful, Turna said. She added that she is happy to see this resolution provide the Sikh community with the recognition it deserves.
However, both Valenzuela Mejia and Jussim said this resolution is just a starting point for the Sikh community at UCLA, adding that they plan to take further steps to advocate for Sikh students at UCLA. Valenzuela Mejia said he hopes to talk to more Sikh students and continue to support their needs.
Jussim added that she would like to see Sikhism incorporated into future multicultural centers that are already being planned. In addition, she said she hopes that UCLA will hire a larger number of Sikh practitioners within UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services to provide Sikh students with religious and cultural support.
Turna said she encourages USAC to continue to stand in solidarity with Sikh students through difficult times for their community.
“I hope that USAC will just … be on our side, so that they can stand with us instead of standing against us,” Turna said. “When we’re in danger and when we’re in threat, I hope that USAC does something to acknowledge and address (that).”