Harris also said she would “absolutely” look into the case of Trilochan Singh Oberoi, a former Indian naval officer who is being denied a job as a security guard at Folsom State Prison because he refuses to shave off his beard.
Harris, who is part Indian (her mother is a surgeon from Tamil Nadu in India) and part African American (her father is an economist at Stanford), is replacing Jerry Brown who himself was elected as Governor of California. Brown left a poor legacy as far as Sikhs are concerned:
The California State Personnel Board ruled in favor of Oberoi on Nov. 10, 2008, but the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has refused to let him serve. Three weeks before the election, the Sikh Coalition launched a petition drive against Governor-elect Jerry Brown, who currently serves as the state’s attorney general, to get him to act on the matter. The attorney general’s office has defended the CDCR’s refusal to let Oberoi serve.
With Brown’s refusal to protect Oberoi’s civil rights, there’s some optimism that Harris might reverse that decision, although Harris has cautioned that she must review the case first. In interesting contrast to newly-elected Governor Nikki Haley (who as the daughter of Sikh immigrants has gone to length to downplay her Indian and Sikh roots), Harris seems proud of her lineage and is honored by her support from the Indian community:
“The Indian American community has been very supportive of my campaign, which is a great source of pride for me,” Harris told India-West following the press conference. She thanked the community for their support, and related the story of an aunt in Chennai, who was inundated by reporters there as her niece neared victory.
Let us see how far California’s promise to appreciate Sikhs as Americans goes.