Inspired by the Sikh notion of oneness, says Indian American running for Congress - Hindustan Times

Inspired by the Sikh notion of oneness, says Indian American running for Congress

Feb 23, 2024 09:35 AM IST

Inspired by the Sikh notion of oneness, says Indian American running for Congress

Washington, Feb 23 (PTI) Krystle Kaul, a noted Indian American defence and national security expert, says her running for the US Congress is inspired by the Sikh tradition of oneness and a strong sense of giving back to the community.

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“I am half Kashmiri Pandit and half Punjabi Sikh. I am very proud of both of my cultural backgrounds. Growing up in America, being bicultural is something unique and something that I have embraced. My grandparents and my parents have embedded that in me. I am proud to stand today as the first ever Kashmiri Pandit to stand for Congress and also as the only Sikh woman to currently run for Congress in the country,” Krystle told PTI in a recent interview.

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Kaul, who speaks nine languages – English, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Dari and Kashmiri -- is running from the 10th Congressional District of Virginia. The incumbent Jennifer Wexton, a Democrat, is not seeking re-election, therefore making it an open seat.

“My Nani (grandmother) Vimal Chaddha Malik used to take me to Glen Cove Gurdwara in Long Island, New York. There I would serve langar. I learned a lot about Sikh traditions and the notion of oneness. I'm proud of that. That's something that has given me a very strong sense of community and giving back and is one of the core values that I embrace in my bid for Congress,” she said.

“At the core of the tenets of Sikhism is this idea of feeding your community, of service, of making sure that everyone has what they need and that is reflective. If you go to Amritsar, for example, to the Golden Temple, you see that everyone gets fed at the Golden Temple. The halwa there is also the best in the world, I think,” she said.

“It’s just a really beautiful concept to see in the community there on a micro level and one that can be scaled internationally and that can be embraced here in Virginia District 10. So again, I’m very proud of both sides of my heritage being Hindu and Sikh, and very proud of the fact that I stand again as the only Sikh woman running for Congress in the country today because we need representation and that's important,” Kaul said.

Notably, Dalip Singh Saund was the first Indian American, a Sikh, to be elected to the US House of Representatives from the 29th Congressional District of California for three terms beginning in 1957.

In the current Congress, there are five Indian Americans in the House of Representatives: Dr Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Pramila Jayapal and Shri Thanedar. Jayapal is the first ever and only Indian American woman to be elected to the House of Representatives.

Dalip Singh Saund is often a name that gets forgotten, Krystle said.

“Today we focus heavily on the five Indian American members who were in Congress, but preceding all of them was this one Sikh man who came in as an outlier and was able to get the mass community support in his district at a time when we were such a new immigrant community in this country. That's something that I'm proud of and one that I think is very notable,” she said.

Despite doing well in various fields in the US, the Sikh community is not seen much in politics, she noted. “The Sikh community has done very well as the Indian American community, but as a subgroup. In terms of education, in terms of business and engineering, and IT and medicine across the board,” she said.

“This group definitely needs representation. Of course, there have been a lot of cases of discrimination against Sikhs, which is very unfortunate,” Kaul said.

Responding to a question, Krystle said there have been a lot of cases of discrimination against Sikhs, which is very unfortunate. “I've seen it in my district, I've seen it in Virginia, and I've seen it at a national level. I say repeatedly, it doesn't matter (how much is) your bank balance, it doesn't matter how prominent you are, if you're a Sikh man, you wear a turban. It’s a visible thing that you wear and something that can be used against you in terms of a hate crime,” she pointed out.

There is a need to create more awareness and understanding that this is something that is part of a religion and one that should be respected, she said.

“That is through education, through awareness, and that comes from representation. When you have people in Congress who say, hey, I stand up proudly to be a Sikh and this is not okay, you cannot do this. That's when people start to listen. I think that's something that I want to advocate,” she added.

Kaul said her campaign is doing good and she is running a genuine, authentic and grassroots campaign. “I have the most cash on hand today. I came out very strong in Q4 with USD 567,000 in cash on hand surpassing all candidates by a lot. They told me I couldn't do it. They often underestimate you as a woman, as a woman of colour and particularly as they see women. I worked really hard,” she said.

“Along with cash on hand, I also have a very strong and growing team. I have a team that's right now 85 plus and growing. A lot of great top firms, and amazing staff that I have on hand, but also a volunteer team that exceeds 50 in several districts, in several states and also nationally who are really inspired. A lot of them are young Indian American girls in particular, which I'm really proud of, a lot of young Sikh girls for example,” Kaul said.

“I also have a very multicultural growing volunteer base of Latinos, people from different communities,” she said, asserting that it “showcases a strong base”.

She said she spoke at the Sikh International Film Festival in New York where she got to interact with filmmakers, the heads of Sikhs for America, the Punjabi Chamber of Commerce, and the Sikh Chamber of Commerce.

“I've got a lot of support from very many prominent Sikhs, again locally and nationally. And that has also felt great just from a community standpoint and one that is tied to my cultural roots,” she said.

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