NEW YORK (Diya TV) – Indian American politician Jenifer Rajkumar is known for being very active in the New York community she serves, attending events on a seemingly daily basis. Yet the State Assemblywoman’s latest appearance at the annual Sikh Day Parade in New York has sparked furor amongst many of her longtime supporters.

On X, Rajkumar posted a photo depicting herself with local Gurdwara leaders, a standard photo with event organizers.

In the background though, large Khalistan flags are prominently visible. The separatist movement is considered a fringe effort by many political and intelligence analysts, but the bright yellow and blue flags are an increasingly common sight at Sikh related events around the US and Canada.

While many Khalistan activists in the diaspora claim their movement is non-violent, thousands of lives on both sides of the issue have been lost over the last half century.

Khalistan supporters from Canada were behind the 1985 Narita International Airport bombing that killed two people and the bombing of Air India Flight 182 that killed 329 people, the second worst act of aviation terrorism in North America after 9/11.

These bombings occurred one year after the deadly Operation Blue Star at the Golden Temple, the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at the hands of her Sikh bodyguards and deaths of thousands of Sikhs throughout India in the aftermath.

More recently, India’s National Investigation Agency continues to seek the 10 persons of interest said to be Khalistan supporters involved in the March 2023 vandalization of the San Francisco Indian Consulate.

In July 2023, in a story first reported by Diya TV, a second effort to vandalize and burn down the San Francisco Indian Consulate caused a firestorm of outrage globally. No suspect information has been released yet in that incident.

Modern day Khalistan leaders like Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who resides primarily in New York City, have been deemed terrorists by the Indian government for spearheading succession efforts and making death threats towards Indian diplomats. New reporting by the Washington Post alleges senior Indian intelligence officials have already attempted to have him killed on U.S. soil.

With all of this context to consider, we reached out to Rajkumar for comment. Below is her full statement released exclusively to Diya TV:

“Against impossible odds, I made history when I became the first Indian-American woman and first Hindu ever elected to a New York State office. Against impossible odds, I made history yet again when I led and won the fight to make Diwali a NYC School Holiday. I later led the charge against the anti-Hindu hate crime at NYC’s Tulsi Mandir, garnering the attention of the White House and ensuring the offense was prosecuted as a hate crime.

Every year, I also attend the Sikh Day parade with the Sikh leaders from Gurdwaras across the Northeast. I stand with the Sikh community and its practice of seva, caring for all of humanity.
As a proud American, I work tirelessly to build peace and unity among all people in our great country.

I have always said that fringe, extremist groups that sow seeds of hate and violence in the world should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. On the other hand, any groups that wish to build peace, understanding, and the bridges of diplomacy are welcome to join my movement.”

It should be noted that New York Mayor Eric Adams and Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla were among the other dignitaries on hand for the parade, but they have not received the same level of criticism that Rajkumar has faced.

Since taking office in 2021, Rajkumar has been unafraid to make her presence felt at Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi events, not to mention Hindu, Muslim and Sikh festivities, no matter what the diaspora politics of the day are.

It remains to be seen if this social media backlash will have any lasting impact on Rajkumar, who is one of America’s only Indian American female political leaders.