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    Tuesday, June 18, 2024

    Swaranjit Singh Khalsa makes history in Norwich

    Swaranjit Singh Khalsa shows some of the art and artifacts on display in his Sikh Art Gallery in Norwich Tuesday, February 16, 2021. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Norwich — Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, a Democratic Board of Education member who was the second highest vote-getter for the City Council in Tuesday's election, said he is slated to be the first Sikh elected official on a City Council in Connecticut.

    "Voters of Norwich made history," he said.

    Singh Khalsa, 36, who runs small businesses in Norwich where he lives with his wife and daughter, said the election speaks volumes that voters are acknowledging all the work he has been doing on the Board of Education and for equity and cultural awareness.

    He said the results give him a little more of a boost that people value embracing diversity in the community and the work he and members of the Sikh community are doing.

    His community involvement includes serving on the Commission on the City Plan, board of directors for Norwich Community Development Corporation, Inland Wetlands Commission, Norwich Area Clergy Association and NAACP Norwich, and as creative director of Sikh Art Gallery, according to his biography. He also was recognized by former FBI Director James Comey for his efforts to embrace diversity.

    While there is a recount of the votes for the six-member City Council scheduled for Monday, Singh Khalsa right now is the second highest vote-getter.

    He said he has helped distribute masks and meals during the coronavirus pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests, helped create a cultural calendar for the school system and put up multilingual welcome signs in Norwich.

    Connecticut commemorates Sikh Genocide Remembrance Day on Nov. 1.

    Singh Khalsa said for members of the Sikh community, who already have been underrepresented in India and in Punjab, their homeland, it's a very big deal that they are making their way into the American political system.

    He said representation will make the Sikh community more comfortable to flourish in Connecticut, and Norwich already has seen examples of Sikh business owners coming to the city.

    He said while he ran for City Council because he's involved in the system, for other people it carries a lot of significance to see someone who looks like him having the courage to go through this process. He said he thinks a lot of people came out to vote because they saw his face.

    He said his election not only provides representation to the Sikh community, but to all Asian Americans, and other communities also understand that he can better relate to them.

    Going door to door during the campaign, he learned a lot from people, and wants to make it easier for people, who don't always have time to go to City Hall or who may not understand the process, to get involved. He hopes to have more participation and more diverse participation in meetings.

    He congratulated all the people who were elected and, with the campaign over, said it's now time to forget that they are from different parties.

    "I think voters have spoken a lot with the election results about who they want to see representing their city," he said.

    His goals for the council include making sure the city keeps pace with the 21st century, funding departments properly to provide services to people, recreational opportunities, cultural competency training for city employees and officials, continuing community policing, better marketing the downtown area and increasing the grand list.

    k.drelich@theday.com

    Swaranjit Singh Khalsa stands Nov. 18, 2017, in front of the flag of the Khalistan movement, a Sikh nationalist movement that seeks to create a separate country called Khalistan. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, left, a community leader in Norwich, chats with Norwich police Chief Patrick Daley during the Interfaith Spiritual Wellness Fair held Dec. 7, 2016, at the Southeastern Mental Health Authority in Norwich. Later during the fair, Khalsa received the FBI Director's Community Leadership Award from FBI Community Outreach Specialist Charles Grady, with Daley standing at his side during the presentation. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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