Norwich library removes Sikh display after complaint from Indian government

New London

NORWICH, Conn. (WTNH)– Swaranjit Singh Khalsa did a lot of work to get a Sikh memorial display placed in the Otis Library in Norwich. Now he has it on display in his basement.

“It’s a very simple plaque,” said Khalsa. “I don’t feel anything political or religious in the plaque. It’s the history.”

The display is dedicated to what he says was the genocide of Sikh members in 1984.

“It’s in the memory of thousands of people who lost their life in the preplanned attack,” said Khalsa.

But the Indian government sees it a different way and the plaque unveiled at the library in June was taken down after executive director Robert Farwell got a call from the Indian General Consulate in New York.

“I think that the most important thing to keep in mind is that we are a non-partisan organization,” said Farwell.

He tells News 8 the display promoted a particular perspective. The library consulted with the city which originally asked it to put up the display. They decided take it down. 

Neither realized it was a partisan issue until the library got that phone call which was apparently less than friendly.

“I would prefer to say that it was delivered in a very undiplomatic fashion and certainly did not… did not require the kind of vehemence that was displayed in the call,” said Farwell.

“I think it’s totally unfair and I don’t blame the library or city official,” said Khalsa. “They’re a good friend of mine.”

Khalsa says the Sikh community is oppressed in its homeland of Punjab which is controlled by India and he had hoped Sikhs who are Americans would be free of that.

“This is very disturbing that foreign governments are interfering in our city politics or even in our national politics,” said Khalsa.

“I think that is is a learning moment for many people,” said Farwell.

The library prefers to provide materials which will allow patrons to form their own opinions.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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