CNN IBN: Just to start with, you’ve met with the officials there [and] the officials of the FBI, are you satisfied with the way the investigation has been handled so far?
Ambassador Rao: My visit to Oak Creek yesterday was basically to meet with the families of the victims and, of course, I utilised the opportunity of my visit to meet also with the officials at Oak
Creek, including the police Chief, the Mayor and the FBI official who is assisting in the investigation and what came across to me in that meeting with the officials was that they are taking the investigation extremely seriously. They assured me about this time and time again during our meeting and what they said was that they have a number of leads, they have got a number of pieces of evidence and that they are examining each and every one of these pieces of evidence with great seriousness and that the investigation is being conducted extremely methodically with a great deal of precision.
CNN IBN: For Indian nationals among those who died there at Oak Creek, is India asking for any kind of role in the investigation- any sort of information sharing between the agencies at all?
Ambassador Rao: You have asked me if India could have any role in the investigation. Well, this is a crime that happened on foreign soil, on the soil of another sovereign government and ultimately it is the responsibility of that government to conduct the investigation and to make sure that it comes to a satisfactory conclusion. So for us to have a role in this, I think would be presuming that somehow we can intervene and we can influence the course of the investigation. I think that would not be practical and that certainly is not required also under the circumstances given the fact that the US Government is going about this in a very serious and methodical way and they are conducting the investigation, putting all the resources at their command into the process.
CNN IBN: The police says [sic] as a one-off incident, an isolated incident, in fact, we see since 2001 a pattern of attacks on Sikhs, in particular, mainly out of some sort of confusion between their appearance and what many, in fact, have been confused with the appearance with Osama Bin Laden, for example. Would you like to see a larger investigation into a hate crime really being taken up?
Ambassador Rao: It's not a question of having a larger investigation, Suhasini. I agree that certainly the larger American public it would help if they are better informed about the Sikh community, about Sikhism as a religion, about the role that the Sikhs have played through history in terms of their valour and their compassion and their community spirit. So that's a process that we should take with a lot of seriousness for the future so that information is more easily available to Americans, one and all about the fact that the Sikh community has so much good to do in terms of their national life, in terms of their progress and prosperity. I know that there have been a number of attacks on Sikhs since 9/11 particularly, and that's very, very unfortunate. We have said that before and I will say that again. Somehow we have to see that this violence stops, that the kind of incident that we saw at Oak Creek on Sunday, is never allowed to recur.
CNN IBN: Do you see these communities worried about these kind of attacks, including other minorities? Are they feeling targeted right now?
Ambassador Rao: Well, you know, violence when it affects citizens in this country, you know, doesn't discriminate against whether you are a minority or not a minority, a member of a minority. You saw what happened in Aurora, Colorado a few weeks ago when a gunman went on the rampage and killed so many people in a cinema theatre. So, there is a larger question about violence and about, you know, the use of weapons and that's not something I can comment about as a foreign diplomat here in the United States. It's a debate that is ongoing within this country and has to be resolved within this country. So, as far as the security of the Sikh community is concerned, we did discuss with the law enforcement officials yesterday when I met them how we could better ensure the security of our Sikh brethren who live in Oak Creek and indeed all across the United States. And then they spoke about certain measures that could be instituted in terms of greater vigilance that could be observed by the community itself in their places of worship for instance, or wherever they are going in public places, wherever they visit and also so that they establish a channel of communication with the law enforcement agencies so that they can share information about any suspicious event or any circumstances that they feel require investigation. So this is a process that has to be instituted and, I believe, if it works well and it should work well going by the seriousness with which the local authorities assured me that they are looking at all these aspects. So if we are able to institute this kind of habits of cooperation between the citizenry, that is the Sikhs here and the law enforcement agencies, I think it would help.
CNN IBN: President Obama just spoke to PM about this- do you think at the governmental level, the US government is particularly worried about these kind of attacks on minorities?
Ambassador Rao: President Obama when he spoke to our Prime Minister today and also when he reacted to the event on Sunday, expressed his sorrow, his distress at this dastardly and heinous crime and he spoke about the fact that the Sikhs are very much a vibrant part of the fabric of America's democracy, of the life of this nation and what I saw when I visited Oak Creek yesterday and I participated in that vigil, which was organised yesterday evening, was the inclusiveness with which the whole community, all residents regardless of whether they were part of a minority or whether they were part of the majority population, they all came together embracing each other and saying that this should never have happened. "We want to share the sorrow of the Sikh community". They stood there silently, their heads bowed in grief and it was a particularly poignant moment and I was present there with Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, few senators and Congressmen and there were the people from the local administration - the Mayor, the Police Chief; they all spoke with great conviction and sincerity and they shared the grief and sorrow of the Sikh community. So, it was , I think, expression of the seriousness with which this incident is viewed and the resolve that the community has that this should not be allowed to happen in future.
CNN IBN: Ambassador Rao, many in India want to know what kind of help do the families in Oak Creek need?
Ambassador Rao: Well, some of the families have sought some assistance to transport the bodies of their loved ones back to India and I have assured them on behalf of the Embassy of India that we will do everything possible to do that. The Honourable Chief Minister of Punjab was also in Oak Creek yesterday and he met with all the families of the victims and he had also made this request on behalf of the families that the bodies should be transported. So, we have also spoken to the local authorities in Oak Creek and said that we would like to arrange this as soon as the bodies are released. So, this is a matter which we are focussed on and we will extend all assistance and any other consular assistance that is necessary for our citizens, those who hold our passports, who were affected by this incident, all possible support and assistance will be extended to them.
CNN IBN: So many Indians go to the US ... Looking at this incident, we have spoken to people in Punjab [who] particularly think they are worried for their future - do you think incidents like these kill their American dream?
Ambassador Rao: I don't believe we should create a fear psychosis about what happened, unfortunate though it was, tragic though it was. We should not fear for the future of our community. Our community, the Indian Americans in this country, have prospered and they live secure lives and their children go to school, they are part of the work force, they travel around the country, they have made their lives here and that's the example that should prove an inspiration to all future numbers of our people who come to this country, who come to work here, to live here and that's the message I would like to convey. Thank you Suhasini.