"Sikhs are often harassed and pressured to reject religious practices and beliefs that are distinct to Sikhism, such as dress, unshorn hair, and the carrying of religious items, including the kirpan," the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its report for 2015.
The lack of recognition of Sikhism as a distinct religion denies Sikhs' access to social services or employment and educational preferences that are available to other religious minority communities and to scheduled caste Hindus," it added.
Calling panel's report a "landmark" for recognising the labeling of "Sikhs" as "Hindus" in Indian Constitution, attorney Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor to Sikh For Justice (SFJ) said "recognition of Sikh with separate identity issue by US will shore up the support for Sikh community's demand for right to self-determination".
"Now we will approach the world community seeking their support for referendum in the state of Punjab," Pannun added.
Ahead of US President's visit to India in January 2015, SFJ had petitioned Barack Obama with 100,000 asking him to raise the issue with the government.