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Sikh cab driver assaulted in New York in a possible hate crime

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Harkirat Singh, 25, said he is too scared to work the night shift, again. He came to the US three years ago.

Credit: The New York Daily News.

Harkirat Singh, a Sikh cab driver from New York was abused and roughed up by a drunk passenger, accompanied by three others, at the corner of 8th Avenue and 30th Street, near Madison Square Garden, around 5 a.m. on Sunday.

The 25-year-old Singh was punched on his arm, verbally abused, and his cab’s fare-meter and partition was hit several times. The New York Police Department (NYPD) is investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.

“I’m so afraid. I don’t want to work,” said Singh from his home in Ozone Part, Queens, the New York Daily News reported.

Singh, who comes from Punjab, India, told the English daily that he picked three men and one woman a few blocks south of Madison Square Garden. Apparently, the belligerent passenger starting hurling abuses at Singh complaining that he took them on a wrong route.

“The girl’s saying, ‘Take the right.’ The Spanish guy’s saying, ‘Take the left.’ So, at that time, I was confused,” Singh narrated. “They’re using bad words, also. They said, ‘Ali Baba, f–k you.”

Eventually, Singh pulled over his car, requested the passenger to pay their due fare of $41.76, and to hire another cab. Singh said that while the woman paid the amount after he dialed 911, one of her companions came back and tried to smash the meter. He said that the white Hispanic man in his 20s, around five-foot-nine-inch tall and weighing 160 lbs, started to manhandle him.

The assaulter, who was wearing red shoes, blue jeans and sporting short hair, removed Singh’s turban, a head-gear and article of faith for Sikhs. Singh said that he got very scared and pleaded with the man to calm down. “Why are you doing this, brother? We can sit. We can talk,” Singh said.

“At that time, I’m so afraid – they can do anything to me. They’re gonna kill me,” he said. “It’s an insult on my religion, also . . . an insult of my faith. It’s horrible.”

When Singh raised alarm, and on seeing the Police, the inebriated passengers fled with Singh’s turban.

Harpreet Singh Toor, Chairman of the Sikh Cultural Society, said that Sikhs are often mistaken for Muslims. “I used to get mad – now I laugh at it, because if we are still ignorant about other faiths . . . who will make those people understand?” he said.

This incident comes within days of the launch of massive million-dollar, nationwide advertisement campaign We Are Sikh, by the National Sikh Campaign (NSC). The month-long campaign that started on April 14, is aimed to educate and aware Americans about Sikhism.