The iconic Times Square was jam-packed in the colours of the Sikh culture as thousands of community members assembled here to celebrate Vaisakhi, the spring harvest festival and educate fellow Americans about Sikhism in the wake of growing incidents of hate crimes and discrimination against them.
Thousands of Sikhs from different cities gathered in largest such celebration in the US till date, the community also wanted to make Americans aware of their rich culture and to see Sikhism in a different light other profiling them as terrorists and reduce backlash against members of the community, particularly after the 9/11 attack.
Legendary Indian sportsman Milkha Singh addressed the gathering; he said "Today if the Sikhs have a name, are known around the world, it is because of the turban. Milkha Singh is called a 'Flying Sikh' because I have the turban on my head and the beard on my face. My beard and turban are the reasons for the respect and recognition that I have across the world”.
"People here should know that Sikhs are warriors, they have fought for other people and will do everything to help others. The event will inspire people here and educate them about the Sikh culture, they will get to know who Sikhs are," Mikha Singh said lauding the organisers for putting together the event. The participants jostled to get a picture clicked with the elderly ‘Flying Sikh’, who had travelled from Canada for the event.
Several excited tourists and children queued up to get turbans tied on their heads in bright colours by the members of the Sikh community and took several pictures and ‘selfies’ wearing them.
The Non-profit organisation Sikhs of New York and New Jersey, along with the other organisers said that the event is aimed not only celebrating the festival marking the spring harvest but is also about addressing the misinformation i.e. educating Americans and thousands of tourists about the Sikh culture. Importantly, the Sikh articles of faith such as turban and beard has lead to profiling and backlash against members of the community, particularly after the 9/11 attack.