Around 100 people came out to a meeting at Stonecreek Park on Wednesday evening to hear about and discuss a proposal by the Sikh community to change the park name.

The Bakersfield chapter of the national Sikh nonprofit organization Jakara Movement is leading an effort to rename the park in honor of Jaswant Singh Khalra, a man from Punjab, India, who was killed in 1995 after revealing to the world that thousands of Sikhs were being unjustly killed by Punjabi police while in their custody.

The majority of people in attendance at the meeting were Sikhs, and while police officers were on hand in case of any problems, there were none.

The youth-led organization is in the process of collecting signatures of support from the community and has reached out to city officials and representatives in its efforts to get the name changed. So far, about 400 people have signed the petition.

“We want the community to share their input, to give some of their suggestions, and really make this a community effort that we’re all proud of and that really brings us all together as one Bakersfield,” said Jakara Movement Executive Director Naindeep Singh.

One of the attendees to talk was Mona Sidhu, who first immigrated with her family to Bakersfield in 1976.

“I was the only Sikh at my high school at Highland High for most of my time there, and probably the only South Asian for most of my time there,” she said. “Things have changed a great deal since then. Our community is really flourishing.”

Sidhu said that is in large part due to the work of people like Jaswant Singh Khalra, who provided evidence that Sikh lives were being threatened and helped lead to the U.S. government allowing Sikhs to seek asylum in America.

“There are numerous people, including in this community, who not only would not be in America but would not be alive if not for Jaswant Singh,” she said.

Sidhu said she has heard from people who question what Sikhs contribute to Bakersfield and whether there are many of them. According to the Jakara Movement, there are around 35,000, mostly located in southwest Bakersfield.

“We’re a relatively new community, not because we haven’t chosen to assimilate. We just haven’t had the time to become the kind of community we want to be. Give us the time,” she said.

One person who could not attend the meeting was Navkiran Kaur Khalra, daughter of Jaswant Singh Khalra. Khalra recently learned about the effort to rename the park in her father’s name and recorded a short message that was played during the meeting.

“It’s really exciting and also really a moment of honor and pride,” she said. “I’m really proud of this community that we have this opportunity.”

Abneet Sandhu said she feels that the park name change is important in showing that Sikhs are a significant community in Bakersfield and that they belong here.

“This gives a chance to our youth to say ‘yes, this is my community,’” she said. “It helps our Sikh youth to participate in this community and understand that we are American citizens and that we have a voice. Something needs to be done. If not us, who? If not now, when?”

City Councilman Chris Parlier, who represents the area of Stonecreek Park, spoke at the meeting.

He said he believes the discussion about the park really needs to go to a committee for further discussion and said that at the April 11 council meeting, he will be directing staff to refer the issue to a committee.

“You need a city committee to sit down and hear all voices on both sides and develop a plan,” he said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to come up with some great ideas.”

Joseph Luiz can be reached at 395-7368 or by email at jluiz@bakersfield.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @JLuiz_TBC. 

(21) comments

REMUDA

Sikh is a monotheistic religion, founded in the Punjab C1500 by the guru Nanak, that refuses to recognize the Hindu caste system or the Brahmanical priesthood and forbids magic, idolatry (?), and pilgrimages. Traditionally a very quiet and inoffensive faith, now it's promoting in-your-face demonstrations. Is this appropriate for a secular 'one-size-fits-all-park' and other folks' beliefs?

Aren't all these great Sikh families (and Latino/Hispanics) American Citizens? Has there been a search for a local Sikh-American (or is it American-Sikh?) US military martyr-hero in Bakersfield that would be a worthy candidate to celebrate with a local landmark name (new street or building)?

Wouldn't that be more appropriate to the "Sikh Community" rather than a change to a long-existing (navigation) landmark name that bespeaks our neighborhood (subdivision) topography? Even the Kern River is often hard to find (with its dry off-road vehicle track) running through Bakersfield. No one has ever suggested renaming it, appropriately, to "Rio McCarthy".

How did a brand-new airport (Bill Thomas Int'l/Meadows Field) get its name? Did it come up on a list of those sites needing to be renamed because of diminishing popularity or utility? Who was 'Meadows'? The Stonecreek Park (creek or not) existed as a "benchmark/cornerstone" long before any ethnic/religious enclave neighborhood came into being (celebrated' as crime-free or not).

Does the word "assimilation" mean anything these days? Why did these folks show up in Bakersfield, much less the USA? Was it to escape their troubled persecution via 'US-Asylum' and freedoms here, only to reestablish and "colonize" via their religion (challenged in Punjab, India). We find celebrating American heroes a tradition here in the US. Are other foreign heroes celebrated in Bakersfield by renaming existing landmarks?

Is Stonecreek famous for anything? The name seems pleasant enough as a generic geographic landmark, not a 'shrine' to a specific faith's hero (the US abhors government mandates on 'religion' by law). Is there an underlying feature to this 'international identity' that has yet to be disclosed? Or is raising controversy the "Name Of 'The Game' " ?

MikeD

StoneCreek means nothing to anyone in town. At least Khalra means something to the nearby residents. I’m all for it! Khalra Park it is.

REMUDA

Sikh is a monotheistic religion, founded in the Punjab C1500 by the guru Nanak, that refuses to recognize the Hindu caste system or the Brahmanical priesthood and forbids magic, idolatry (?), and pilgrimages. Traditionally a very quiet and inoffensive faith here, now it's promoting in-your-face demonstrations. Is this appropriate for a secular 'one-size-fits-all-park' and other folks' beliefs?

Aren't all these great Sikh families (and Latino/Hispanics) American Citizens? Has there been a search for a local Sikh-American (or is it American-Sikh?) US military martyr-hero in Bakersfield that would be a worthy candidate to celebrate with a local landmark name (new street or building)?

Wouldn't that be more appropriate to the "Sikh Community" rather than a change to a long-existing (navigation) landmark name that bespeaks our neighborhood (subdivision) topography? Even the Kern River is often hard to find (with its dry off-road vehicle track) running through Bakersfield. Don't recall anyone suggesting to rename it, appropriately, to "Rio McCarthy".

How did a brand-new airport (Bill Thomas Int'l/Meadows Field) get its name? Did it come up on a list of those sites needing to be renamed because of diminishing popularity or utility? Who was 'Meadows'? The Stonecreek Park (creek or not) existed as a "benchmark/cornerstone" long before any ethnic/religious enclave neighborhood came into being (celebrated' as crime-free or not).

Does the word "assimilation" mean anything these days? Why did these folks show up in Bakersfield, much less the USA? Was it to escape their troubled persecution via 'US-Asylum' and freedoms here, only to reestablish and "colonize" via their religion (challenged in Punjab, India). We find celebrating American heroes a tradition here in the US. Are other foreign heroes celebrated in Bakersfield by renaming existing landmarks?

Is Stonecreek famous for anything? The name seems pleasant enough as a generic geographic landmark, not a 'shrine' to a specific faith's hero (the US abhors government mandates on 'religion' by law). Is there an underlying feature to this 'international identity' that has yet to be disclosed? Or is raising controversy the "Name Of 'The Game' " ?

Nevermind

I have doubts it will fly, especially here in Bakersfield. The Sikh community is a very positive one embracing America as well as their heritage. The problem for them is not renaming the park, but renaming it after a foreigner, which I suppose is not unprecedented but rare. For instance we may have a park named LaFayette, but even as a foreigner he had an impact on American history. Having said that, I think Fresno has a park named after Jaswant Singh Khalra, so, ots not impossible. Good luck in their quest.

Mcdermit

I live a block away from the park and it’s not a big deal of changing this park name for someone who is hero in their country. I notice majority of people that I see in the park are punjabis (not that it matters to me). Only reason why I support is that they keep the park clean. I would love to see if they can adopt the park on putting some flowers and picnic benches. Love taking my kids there. -Samantha

MikeD

I see at least 3 white or Mexicans in the two pics posted. Some blind guy says he can’t see anyone. Lol. I got a flyer to join this community meeting but couldn’t go myself, but neighbor went. He said this is just being blown out of proportion for no reason. He sees nothing wrong with it. Nearly all the opposition is from a few people that don’t even live in the area.

KyleFe

With all the racial tension we see in this country this is great that our country is now returning to a diverse normality it was before 2016. Hopefully this park will inspire others to see us all as American, because we all seek liberty and freedom. I can’t say much about the past history of people we all have skeletons in our closets, but it doesn’t mean we have to be ignorant about the ones who are around us today making our communities and country prosprous.

Victor

I am sharing this link with other news readers to find more about the community we are talking about - www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/sikhism/beliefs/beliefs.shtml

1. Sikhs along with Chinese & Japanese workers helped creating the western railroad.
2. They are most the most American ethnic patriotic group I have ever seen.
3. Their belief (as posted above link) sounds very similar with our American lifestyle and constitution.

When I was interested in Indian studies (sparked interest from my love of Indian curry food), I started my journey to learn its history.

It has some wild history where the majority (Hindus) suppress the minorities such as Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists. I thought all Indians are same but found that it’s only Hindus who believe in some crazy racist ideology - very similar of KKK. They discriminated against low castes. Hindus fought against British while Punjabi Sikhs fought bravely against nazis along with our American and British troops.

Good that Indian Hindu community are not living anywhere in my town but glad to have Indian Sikh community.

Bodak Hello

I just looked at the photos and didn't see a single non-Sikh person. Not one white, Latino, Black etc. This is what true racism looks like in our community. And this wasn't a "community" meeting. It was about as diverse as a KKK rally.

KyleFe

Comparing them to KKK? You see any hate speeches, cross burning? All these people are doing is celebrating a park named after a human rights activists torchured and killed by the Indian government. I have visited their temple through my church they are very far from hate as it gets.

MikeD

There are at least 3 non Sikhs in the pics excluding the cops.. what are you smoking on? All the neighbors got an invite. No one showed up to voice their opposition. That’s a great sign. Khalra Park it is.

Bodak Hello

The Jakara Movement Bakersfield lists "shaheedi" (Martyrdom) as one of their core values on their webpage. No kidding. Check it out before they delete it. Combined with the Sikh terrorists who blew Canadian airliners out of the sky & assassinated India's prime minister, renaming this park after a Sikh Shaheed (martyr) is a no-go. This clannish community should be censured.

Thirtysomething

They deleted a 30 minute Khalistan propaganda video they had on YouTube for the past 5 years today. Screenshot everything.

Bodak Hello

Here is the page that shows the Jakara Movement's core values including "Shaheedi" (Martyrdom). Shaheedi is NOT a core tenet of Sikhism, but it is of this Sikh paramilitary organization as per their webpage https://www.jakara.org/history

MikeD

What the heck is Shaeeedi ?? You seem to know the language but are talking bad about your own people. Sad. Grow up will ya

Thirtysomething

But you sound like an RSS bigot, which I'm also against.

Jaswant Khalra was a good man who did good work. The Government of India through Punjab Police was very heavy handed in their response to the militancy and many young men were killed in false encounters. He was not a Khalistani.


The reason to oppose this project is because the group is trying to advance a political cause in another country. If they were choosing a Sikh with American ties like Kartar Singh Sarabha or Bhagat Singh Thind I would support it.

Bodak Hello

Sikh extremists murdered the Prime Minister of India (they were her own bodyguards, no less) plunging the country into ethnic violence in which thousands were killed on all sides. The next year Sikhs who were legal immigrants to Canada blew up two jetliners in a 9/11 style attack. The Jakara Movement's logo is a Saudi Arabia style sword (the kirpan). Shame on Bakersfield leadership for not doing 5 minutes of research into this paramilitary organization and what they are trying to do here.

Victor

Hello Bodak, I’m catholic and I believe Jesus is our lord. I went to Sikh temple with my childhood friend and learned a lot about their religion and community. I want to ask American Indian Hindus on why they are burning bibles in many towns in India and our lord churches in India.

Since amartsar is my town’s sister city, My local church were planning on the Indian trip but cancelled after this news - https://www.christianheadlines.com/news/bible-burning-in-southern-india-shows-depth-of-hostility-toward-christians.html

Very hostile feeling towards other religion. Why?

WiseOne

The title is right. "'sikh community discusses plans to change name" No Bakersfield people were there. This clannish group prohibits intermarriage, racist caste system (untouchable class) etc. Refuse to assimilate due to racism. Plus the sikh terrorism thing

Victor

I believe you are mixing up Hindus with Sikhs? Hindus believe in caste system where they have untouchables phobia and I know that there is some friction between Sikhs and Hindus because panjabi Sikhs wants to abolish caste system while Hindus do not want that? Also, are there any Hindu church in Bakersfield? I want to go and learn.

Nevermind

You're wisdom on the subject is a little tarnished oh wise one.

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