INDIA ABROAD June 2, 2017 15 INDIAN AMERICAN AFFAIRS
he three-day celebration
of the Sikh Foundation
anniversary was every-
thing a milestone gala
should be: a grand reception at
the Asian Art Museum in San
Francisco, with more than 240
guests, and a two-day confer-
ence at Stanford University.
Politicians, community leaders
and other prominent Indian-Americans felt pride and fellowship during the nonprofit
group’s sweeping event from
May 5 through May 7.
Yet the festivities
were clouded somewhat by reminders of
exemplified by the
2016 assault on Maan
Singh Khalsa not far
California. Two men
from Texas were
recently sentenced to
three years in prison
for what has been
declared a hate crime.
“People who are not aware of
Sikhism think we are from Saudi
Arabia, leading to the killing of
many innocent,” said the foundation’s chairman, Narinder
Singh Kapany, 90.
“The promise of the Sikh
Foundation is to somehow create an understanding of our history, of who we are, so that we
can find unity through our common humanity,” said Kapany,
considered the father of fiber
optics. He established the nonprofit with his wife, Satinder
Kaur Kapany, in 1967, to promote Sikh heritage and Sikh culture — a need, he said, that is
even greater now.
Sikhs have made progress, of
course, he said: the first Asian-
American congressman was a
Sikh, Rep. Dalip Singh Saund, a
Punjab native who served
California’s 29th District from
1957 to 1963. And Canada has
four Sikh ministers in its cabinet.
“We live in a time when it is
easy to forget the value of the
past,” said Kapany. “We are sur-
rounded by the lure of moderni-
ty and bombarded by incessant
messages about the value of
almost anything new. As a
result, the works of our cultural
and artistic heritage often lan-
guish due to the benign neglect
or simple lack of attention.”
The world, he said, needs
more education on this and the
foundation is addressing that.
“The promise of the Sikh
Foundation is to create an
understanding of our heritage—
of who we are — so that we can
find unity through our common
humanity,” said executive direc-
tor, Sonia Dhami.
In the aftermath of 9/11, Sikhs
became the target of hate crimes
all over the country. “And now
the need to educate Americans
about Sikh culture, history, and
religion became a matter of life
and death,” she said.
When Kapany started the
foundation, the Silicon Valley
did not have today’s multicultur-al landscape.
Recent world and national
events, she said, show a continued need for increased understanding of Sikh values, traditions and contributions. She said
the foundation shares progressive ethics, lyrical mysticism and
heroism of the Sikhs.
To enhance awareness about
Sikhism, the foundation has
established four chairs of Sikh
studies at universities in
California and supported seven
exhibits of Sikh art at major
museums around the world and
published over a dozen publications.
Meanwhile, during the May 5
Sikh Foundation establishes university chairs, supports galleries
gala, the foundation honored
with Nirbhau (which means
“without fear”) Awards to five
women who have left a mark on
the world: U.S. filmmaker, civil
rights activist and lawyer Valarie
Kaur, Sikh Afghan politician
Anarkali Kaur Honaryar, artist
Arpana Caur, Maine college pro-
fessor Nikky G. K. Singh and
museum curator Susan Stronge.
The first Sikh to become a
minister of defense in Canada
and a member of Parliament,
Harjit Singh Sajjan, delivered the
In honor of the 50th anniver-
sary of the Sikh Foundation, the
Asian Art Museum in San
Francisco is hosting an exhibi-
tion Saints and Kings: Arts,
Culture, and Legacy of the Sikhs
until June 18.
Their Educational Imperative
Above, a cultural dance at the
dinner gala held at the Asian Art
Museum in San Francisco,
California, May 7. Left, Harjit Singh
Sajjan, the first Sikh to become
Minister of Defense in Canada.
Below, Dr. Narinder Singh Kapany
founder the Sikh Foundation.
The Federation of Indian Associations
of New York, New Jersey and
Connecticut, in collaboration with the
Indian-American community in the
tristate area, held a dinner reception to
honor TV Asia Chairman H.R. Shah for
receiving the Padma Shri, India’s fourth
highest civilian honor. Consul General
of India in New York, Riva Ganguly Das
and prominent members of the
Indian-American community attended
the reception, held May 23 at Royal
Albert’s Palace in Fords, New Jersey.
A recipient of the 2005 Ellis Island
Medal of Honor , Shah is he is also
chairman of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan