- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin sent diplomatic shockwaves from Washington to New Delhi, with U.S. officials expressing anguish and condolences and Indian officials demanding protection for Indian-Americans, especially Sikh men who wear turbans and full beards and are sometimes mistaken for Muslims.

The Indian Embassy in Washington called the Sunday shooting that killed six people “unspeakably tragic” and dispatched a top diplomat, Community Affairs Minister Datta Padsalgikar, and its consul in Chicago, N.J. Gangte, to the scene of the attack in Oak Creek, a city near Milwaukee.

Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna spoke with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who expressed “her sense of shock, sadness and personal condolence,” the embassy said.

President Obama ordered U.S. flags flown at half-staff in mourning. Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan and Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman called Indian Ambassador Nirupama Rao, who also talked to Parkash Singh Badal, chief minister of Punjab, the historic home of the Sikhs in India.

“Our hearts bleed for the precious and innocent lives lost in Oak Creek,” Mrs. Rao wrote on Twitter. “This is a very tragic time for our community. … The Sikhs are among the best Indian Americans — patriotic, law-abiding, industrious, generous and giving. I grieve with them today.”

In India, U.S. Ambassador Nancy Powell visited Bangla Sahib, the most prominent Sikh temple in Delhi. “We are deeply saddened by the … ghastly act of violence,” she said.

Mr. Krishna told reporters in India that Mrs. Rao has “registered her sense of disturbance and concern over the developments” to the State Department.

The foreign minister also criticized U.S. gun rights, saying, “I think they will have to certainly take a comprehensive look at this kind of tendency which certainly is not going to bring credit to the U.S.”

Mr. Badal recalled that, because of their beards and turbans, many Sikh men have been mistaken for Muslims and subjected to “violent attacks” after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

“There is a strong feeling among the Sikh masses about the need for a comprehensive awareness campaign by the U.S. government about the identity and highly constructive role of the Sikh community” in the United States, he said in a letter to Mr. Krishna.

Russian band rally

Does Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak like punk rock music?

Amnesty International USA is going to find out Friday evening, when the human rights group sponsors a punk-rock protest performance outside the Russian Embassy to support three female Russian musicians who landed in court in Moscow after singing songs against President Vladimir Putin.

Amnesty has called the women “prisoners of conscience.” They are on trial on charges of “hooliganism,” which carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

However, prosecutors Tuesday asked for three-year sentences in the case against Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23; Maria Alekhina, 24; and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29.

They have been in custody since they were arrested in February after performing the anti-Putin stunt in a Moscow church. The case has split Russians, with many supporting the women as part of a growing reaction against Mr. Putin. Others say they were disrespectful of the Russian Orthodox Church.

A verdict is expected this week.

Pop stars like Madonna, Pete Townshend of The Who and Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys have rallied to their defense.

The protest from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Friday will feature local talent, including the bands Brenda, Mobius Strip and Sad Bones. They will play outside the embassy at 2650 Wisconsin Ave. NE.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail [email protected] The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.



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