Politics, Spoken in Punjabi

October 15, 2006


Source: The New York Times


TAKE the A train to the end of the line, walk down two blocks of broken sidewalk, and climb a flight of neatly carpeted stairs. There, in a small office above the local greengrocer on 101st Avenue in Richmond Hill, you’ll find Queens County’s newest elected official.

Mohinder Singh, wearing a royal blue turban and long white beard, sits behind a desk piled high with colorful Punjabi-language newspapers. Along with four other Sikhs, Mr. Singh, 57, was elected to the Queens County Democratic Committee in last month’s primary. The victory represented the first time Sikhs have been elected to public office anywhere in the city.

The five have joined almost 3,000 other party committee members statewide; an executive committee of 77 makes most of the party’s nominating decisions and develops the party’s platform. In this bureaucracy, the power of the new recruits seems fairly diluted. Still, the election of these five men signifies the increasing engagement of the Sikh community in American politics.

“These are humble beginnings,” said Amardeep Singh Bhalla, legal director of the Sikh Coalition, a civil rights group based in Lower Manhattan. “But we hope they’ll make way for Sikhs to be involved in the community going forward.