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Three Sikh-Americans file a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense

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Specialist Kanwar Singh, Massachusetts Army National Guard, seeks to serve in the U.S. military without being forced to compromise his religion. Courtesy of The Sikh Coalition

Specialist Kanwar Singh, Massachusetts Army National Guard, seeks to serve in the U.S. military without being forced to compromise his religion. Courtesy of The Sikh Coalition

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — Three Sikh-American soldiers filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense this week, according to The Sikh Coalition. Private Arjan Singh Ghotra, Specialist Harpal Singh and Specialist Kanwar Singh wish to serve their country, but also seek to continue practicing their Sikh faith and keeping their Sikh articles of faith — turban, unshorn hair, and beard — intact.

It’s the second such event in as many months for the U.S. military — Capt. Simratpal Singh, a decorated officer of the United States Army who served in Afghanistan, has been engaged in an ongoing battle regarding maintaining his beard and long hair while in uniform. He won a temporary restraining order on March 4 against additional non-standard, discriminatory testing. A final decision on Captain Singh’s case was just announced and he has been temporarily allowed to keep his beard & turban as a rare army exception.

“Three Sikhs filed suit against the Army to ensure that their requests for religious accommodation are resolved by their basic training ship dates in May,” Harsimran Kaur, The Sikh Coalition’s legal director, told NBC News. “The lead plaintiff has been waiting over seven months. The Army has been failing to make decisions on whether these patriotic Sikhs will be able serve their country while abiding by the tenets of their faith. In doing so, the Army is violating their constitutional and statutory rights.”

Private Arjan Singh Ghotra, Virginia National Guard, seeks to serve in the U.S. military with his articles of faith intact. Courtesy of The Sikh Coalition

Private Arjan Singh Ghotra, Virginia National Guard, seeks to serve in the U.S. military with his articles of faith intact. Courtesy of The Sikh Coalition

The trio of men made requests for religious accommodations months ago, however, they are seeking an answer immediately so that they may begin basic combat training alongside their units in May. Like the aforementioned Capt. Singh, the three men are being represented by The Sikh Coalition, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and McDermott Will & Emery.

“We believe that the court will find that the Army is continuing to discriminate against observant Sikhs, and will enjoin the Army to allow the Sikh plaintiffs to serve with articles of faith intact,” Kaur said.

Prior to 1974, Sikh Americans were permitted to serve in the military with their articles of faith intact. But since 1981, stricter grooming policies have reduced religious requests to a case-by-case basis, and only three have been granted since. However, about 50,000 soldiers have permanent beard exemptions for apparent medical reasons.

During a visit to the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2015, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter extended his personal support to Specialist Kanwar Singh. Additionally, 27 retired U.S. generals, 15 senators and more than 100 members of the House of Representatives have expressed their support of Sikh American’s being allowed to serve in the military with their articles of faith intact, according to The Sikh Coalition.

“These men are exactly what the Army says it wants: soldiers of integrity, patriotism, and courage,” Eric Baxter, senior counsel at the Becket Fund, said in a statement. “It’s embarrassing that the Army is still quibbling over their beards when militaries in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and India all accommodate Sikhs without a problem. Hasn’t the Army ever heard of Ulysses S. Grant?”

Specialist Harpal Singh, U.S. Army’s MAVNI program, seeks to serve in the U.S. military while also being allowed to practice his religion. Courtesy of The Sikh Coalition

Specialist Harpal Singh, U.S. Army’s MAVNI program, seeks to serve in the U.S. military while also being allowed to practice his religion. Courtesy of The Sikh Coalition

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Exclusive: Judges Srinivasan, Rao kickoff SABA virtual conference

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Srinivasan

WASHINGTON (Diya TV)  — Diya TV is home to the South Asian Bar Association virtual conference this weekend, which got kicked off by perhaps the two most powerful Indian American lawyers in the nation: Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan & Circuit Judge Neomi Rao, both of whom serve in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, considered the second most powerful court in the nation to only the Supreme Court. We’ll update you on their conversation and preview this weekend’s virtual gala featuring Stacy Abrams, Preet Bharara, Vanita Gupta, Ajit Pai and many others.

Meanwhile, Judges Srinivasan and Rao may get another Indian American colleague, as President Trump nominated Vijay Shanker to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Democratic Party announced they will be conducting their convention virtually from Milwaukee.

Indian American Jeremy Cooney is leading in the race for New York State’s 56th Senate District, with absentee ballots still to be factored in.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Satellite images show larger Chinese presence at Indian border

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LADAKH, India (Diya TV)  — While the ongoing fracas between India and China has not led to all-out war yet, satellite images indicate China is sending a larger group of troops and building infrastructure in Galwan Valley, site of that vicious clash that killed 20 Indian troops, and a reported 43 Chinese soldiers. It was the first loss of life in battle for the Chinese in more than 40 years. U.S. intelligence decreed China instigated the battle and India says China has been staffing up in the area since May. Following the release of the satellite images, China says India is to blame.

The U.S. is regressing in its battle against COVID-19, setting a new single day record for coronavirus cases at more than 37,000. The virus has infected nearly 10 million people globally, a quarter of that total in the U.S. The death toll now stands at 125,000 in the United States, with Florida, Texas, Arizona and California seeing major increases.

Pakistani-American Qasim Rashid advanced in the Democratic primary in Virginia’s First Congressional District. ​He’ll take on longtime incumbent Republican Congressman Robert Wittman in the fall.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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As critics fume, Modi says India was not breached by China

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NEW DELHI (Diya TV)  — During an all-party political leaders meeting, Indian Prime Minister Modi told the group China did not breach Indian territory in Ladakh, nor was any Indian Army border post captured. Modi emphasized India will protect Galwan Valley, the region where the clash killing 20 Indian soldiers and a reported 43 Chinese soldiers took place. But Modi’s critics say the situation was an intelligence failure and many want Modi to strike back with force. Meanwhile, in a statement, the Chinese Government pinned the conflict on India and is laying claim to the entire valley region.

India was elected as a Non-Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council for a 2-year term starting next year, receiving 184 out of 192 valid votes.

And in a wild Friday night surprise, the Justice Department said Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York would be stepping down, to be replaced by Jay Clayton, the current Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. But in a statement, Berman said he’s not leaving until Congress confirms someone & his investigations, including into folks allied with President Trump, will continue.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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