Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, president of Sikh Sewak Society International and a resident of the state of Connecticut, has been awarded the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award last week.
In April, 2017, he will travel to Washington, D.C., where he’ll receive a tour of FBI headquarters and will be celebrated along with the other award recipients during a ceremony, according to a report in Sikh 24.com.
FBI Community Outreach Specialist Charles Grady said, according to the Dec. 10 report, that Khalsa was chosen for his work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI to help educate law enforcement officers about cultural differences in Connecticut.
“It’s all about the willingness of an individual to go over and above what’s asked and bring people together from all walks of life,” Grady was quoted as saying. “He was the clear choice.”
The vetting process for the award is extensive A community or law enforcement agency nominates the person after which a special agent narrows down the nominees. Members of the FBI conduct interviews to learn how much of an impact the person has made.
Khalsa came to the city of Norwich in 2010 after graduating in New Jersey. He also serves as a member in commission of city planning, while running his own real estate business and gas station.
He held Connecticut’s first ever Sikh Awareness Day at his gas station where dozens of people including historians, police officers and local residents, turned up. This became the ice-breaker for a number of community-based meetings.
“That was the start of my interaction with the community,” he said. “After that, people were coming in, helping out, asking me to tell them more about my religion and where I came from,” he was quoted as saying.
An award he received at the 10th annual Interfaith Spiritual Wellness Fair symbolizes how far-reaching his efforts have been in the years since. The recognition is granted yearly to 56 people – one for each of the FBI’s field offices. In Connecticut, the Sikh population has been growing for years, Khalsa said. The rise of hate crime against Sikhs and the Wisconsin shootings prompted Khalsa to become proactive. “Sometimes it’s just the fear of the unknown,” Khalsa said.
That’s part of why he got involved educating officers about not only Sikhs, but also Muslims and Arabs. “When people learn, they realize they’re no different than us,” said Khalsa.
“They might look different, but their values are the same. Once we have that feeling among everyone, I think it will be a good thing,” he said. Khalsa said he largely stays away from talking politics but said education is more important than ever, and that the leader of the country sets the tone, so if they are sending a message of hate, that’s what will be spread around.
Khalsa is serving as a Member in Commission of City Planning and has his own real estate and Gas station business. He also held first Sikh awareness day in Connecticut, right at his station. Dozens of people — local residents, police officers, historians — showed up. That, he said, was the “icebreaker. That was the start of my interaction with the community,” he said. “After that, people were coming in, helping out, asking me to tell them more about my religion and where I came from.”