Hoboken city in New Jersey gets its first Sikh Mayor

Ravinder Bhalla ousts competition and communal hatred

Diaspora

November 8, 2017

/ By Surbhi Kapila / New Delhi



alg-ravinder-bhalla-jpg

Ravinder Bhalla served the city council for seven years, yet had to fight malicious callings against him before he could be finally titled as Hoboken city’s first Sikh mayor.

New Jersey’s city of Hoboken has got its first ever Sikh mayor after an ugly phase of campaigning. Ravinder Bhalla, the new elect, despite facing tough competition had to deal with slanderous flyers calling him a “terrorist”.

Bhalla is filling the position of Dawn Zimmer, who also endorsed him for the post and in a surprising decision announced not to run for re-election in June.

Bhalla, who has been on the city council for more than seven years, is the first Sikh to hold elected office in New Jersey.

He claimed victory at Moran’s Pub on Garden Street and tweeted, “Thank you Hoboken. I look forward to being your Mayor!”

“Thank you for having faith in me, for having faith in our community, faith in our state, and faith in our country; this is what America is all about,” he told his supporters after winning the elections.

“We’ve been through a bruising campaign… but now is the time we come together and see who we can work with to bring this city forward,” he said.

Bhalla bested a six-person field of challengers, that included council members Michael DeFusco and Jennifer Giattino, as well as Hudson County Freeholder Anthony Romano, NJ.com reported.

flyers

Distributed anonymously, the flyers were stuck on windshields

The campaign that had kicked off in June after Zimmer announced his outgoing, turned into a heated race with Anthony Romano’s campaign manager, Pablo Fonseca, calling the race “ugly” and “divisive”, the report said.

The campaign drive took further steep turns when recently after the flyers were distributed anonymously, and stuck to windshields of many a car.

“Don’t let terrorism take over our Town!” the flyers read.

“Don’t let TERRORISM take over our Town!”Bhalla reverted on twitter.

The flyers were not the first time Bhalla was attacked and referred to as a terrorist.  A New Jersey City man previously tweeted: “how the hell did Hoboken allow this guy to be a councilman. He shouldn’t even be allowed in the US #terrorist.”

More than political, the flyers indicated of a  prevailing communal hatred in New Jersey. The NJ.com reported Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, saying that her organisation has seen an uptick in the racist language used in campaigns since last year’s election. The fliers in New Jersey are part of America’s “intensifying hate crime crisis,” Clarke was quoted.

“I have not seen these explicitly racist fliers in the past. It’s a sign that this type of racism is being normalised,” NJ. com quoted Scott Novakowski, associate counsel for New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.

Sadly this is not the first instance of racism reported from the state. Indians and Chinese have faced communal hatred before, but Bhalla’s victory clearly shows the support of many.

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