In just over a month since Election Day, three big steps forward for Sikhs in New Jersey politics, and some ground-breaking. This came in one nomination, today, of Gurbir S. Grewal by Phil Murphy to be his Attorney General, capping off two Election Night victories. Both those wins, despite the opposition using ugly racist slurs, doctored photos and innuendo against them. And victory over racist garbage is victory for all of us.
Gurbir S. Grewal (above) of Glen Rock. Today, Phil Murphy nominated Bergen County Prosecutor Grewal as his Attorney General, the first high-level nomination to come as Murphy organizes his administration. Grewal is Indian-American and Sikh; if confirmed he will be New Jersey’s first South Asian attorney general – and the first Sikh to hold that position in any state. More about Grewal here and here. Watch Murphy’s announcement. And a re-cap of two Election Night victories of Sikhs in NJ politics:
Ravi Bhalla is Hoboken’s Mayor-elect, elevated from his Council position by residents who ignored fear-mongering racist ads against him, including one mailer picturing him with the word TERRORISM (all-caps screaming) above his head. Bhalla becomes one of the very first Sikh mayors in America, beating 5 other candidates and winning the endorsement of Hoboken’s outgoing mayor Dawn Zimmer. Bhalla was born and raised in Jersey, including 17 years in Hoboken, with 8 of those years on City Council. He graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Political Philosophy, attended the London School of Economics, and has a law degree from Tulane. He was well-known before this, among many Sikhs because of something that happened to him 15 years ago – and what he did about it. When the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center tried to require him to remove his turban to be searched before he could see his client, he fought that all the way up to the federal Department of Justice, and the policy was changed. Just one year after the 9/11 terrorism, many Sikhs were subject to suspicion, but a Sikh’s turban is a religious garment, not to be removed in public.
Balvir Singh becomes first Sikh-American to win county office in NJ (and the first Asian-American to win county office in BurlCo). Singh is a 32-year-old math teacher at Burlington City High School. He and running mate Tom Pullion defeated two Republican freeholders, Bruce Garganio and Linda Hughes. This despite the fact the opposition put out racist literature, including darkening Singh’s face, questioning his citizenship and making fun of his name” very tax-Singh. There were also ads claiming he’d help criminal immigrants and require Burlington towns to be sanctuary cities. Pure attempts at race-baiting; those things aren’t even in the jurisdiction of freeholder.
“Sikh Americans and South Asian Americans have been involved at the civic level in NJ for decades. It is wonderful to see the talent and skills of these communities being recognized by the incoming Gubernatorial administration to serve at the highest levels of our state government. Congratulations to Bergen County Prosecutor Grewal for his nomination to serve as the first Sikh American Attorney General in NJ.”
– Dr. Khyati Y. Joshi, co-chair with Satish Poondi of NJDSC’s South Asian American Caucus.