Cruel déjà vu for Sikhs in US: a racial slur, followed by an attempt to murder an innocent man wearing a turban

A Sikh man, Sandeep Singh, run down deliberately in NYC.

By Sujeet Rajan

NEW YORK: As efforts to stem hate crimes against Sikhs in the US, since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, have increased – including support on Capitol Hill with resolutions and bills, an ad campaign by Gap featuring turbaned actor Waris Ahluwalia, promises by the Justice Department to create more awareness all over the country and ongoing efforts by committed Indian American organizations to profile Sikh culture and their deep roots in communities – hate crimes against Sikhs have only increased.

The most recent example of a cowardly attack on an innocent Sikh man, based solely on his appearance – a turban and long beard – has left a father of two in critical condition, after being run over by a truck by an unidentified perpetrator in Queens, New York City.

According to a report in the Village Voice, last Wednesday, just after midnight, the victim Sandeep Singh, who owns a construction business, and three of his friends were crossing 99th Street at 101 Avenue in Richmond Hill, Queens when they crossed paths with a man in a pick-up truck. Witnesses say the driver called Singh a “terrorist,” and yelled at him to “go back to your country.”

Singh didn’t walk away in the face of such threats. He stood his ground, in fact right in front of the truck and engaged the driver in conversation, telling him that he was not a “terrorist”. His friends in the meantime called 911, to report the incident.

The scumbag who had racially abused Singh, panicked. All his false bravado vanished. And in a murderous attempt, he revved up his truck and ran right over Singh in a bid to escape. Singh got caught under the truck and was dragged for 30 feet, sustaining grievous injuries. He survived the brutal incident, has had around 30 stitches, and will need a skin graft surgery.

“He clung to the bottom of the pick up truck, so most of his injuries are along his back and his side,” says Amardeep Singh, director of programs for the Sikh Coalition, adding: “There’s a lot of outrage in the community. It’s a tightly knit Sikh community and they’ve experienced a lot of hate crimes,” Amardeep Singh says. “There is this frustration about lack of action [on the part of the NYPD].”

Despite numerous surveillance videos capturing the deliberate hit-and-run incident by the white pick-up truck, police have yet to find the culprit.

The Village Voice noted that the frustration of the Sikh community is compounded by the fact, that the NYPD–unlike police forces in London, Toronto and Washington D.C.–prohibits officers from wearing turbans, a rule that prevents observant Sikhs from serving in the police force.

“When these hate incidences occur, the community wants action from the police, and in the back of our minds is the fact that we can’t even serve in the police,” Singh told the Voice, noting that Sikhs are inclined to police and military service: they account for less than two percent of India’s population, but more than 20 percent of its army.

Sandeep Singh, recuperating in hospital, released a statement on Tuesday through the Sikh Coalition, which said: “I am in a great deal of pain, but I will survive. I was attacked because I am a Sikh and because I look like a Sikh. Justice should be served so that no one else goes through what I have been through. We need to create a world without hate.”

The Sikh Coalition also held a press conference on Tuesday with Prabhpreet Kaur, the victim’s wife, the Sikh Cultural Society, Baba Makhan Shah Lobana Gurdwara, United Sikhs and the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The group wants to draw attention to the string of Sikh-targeted crimes that have taken place since 9/11, reported the Huffington Post.

The press conference coincided with the two-year anniversary of the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin that left six dead.

“Sandeep is very fortunate to be alive, but we want more law enforcement resources devoted to finding the hate attacker,” Amardeep Singh, Program Director for the Sikh Coalition, said in a statement. “Given that this attack was preceded by racial and religious slurs, it is an attack not only on Sandeep but also on the whole Sikh community. We call on the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI to work with the NYPD to investigate it as a hate crime.

Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), in a statement to The American Bazaar, condemned the attack on Sandeep Singh.

“I’m deeply concerned about the events that took place last week here in Queens, and I wish Mr. Singh a speedy recovery. Two years after the massacre in Oak Creek, it is clear that the Sikh community is still facing the threat of violence, and this kind of continued hate and these attacks against Sikh Americans must come to an end. I hope the Department of Justice and FBI can offer assistance in this case, including using the updated system for specifically tracking hate crimes against Sikhs. The intolerance and ignorance that contributed to the attack on Mr. Singh is unacceptable, and we must continue to work to end these hate crimes,” said Crowley, who has spearheaded efforts in Congress to convince the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation to begin collecting data on hate crimes committed against Indian Americans, and the South Asian Diaspora. Last year, then-FBI Director Robert Mueller announced the agency would begin this program.

The first hate-crime related murder in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks was of a Sikh man in Arizona. Earlier this year, Ahluwalia’s Gap ad posters were defaced. Muggings, assaults against the community have increased; bullying against Sikh children in schools is a regular phenomenon.

Nearly 13 years later after the 9/11 attacks, most of America has moved on. But not so for the Sikh community. Hatred continues to rears its head at them regularly. They continue to live in continuous fear in the country they now call home.


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