Nearly half a dozen Sikhs targeted in hate crimes in past two months; Punjab chief minister raises concern

Overall, Indian Americans have reported more than a dozen hate crimes, including murders, in the US since January, this year.

Since March, nearly half-a-dozen Sikhs and Sikh Americans have been attacked in the US. All these victims immigrated from the northern state of India, Punjab.

In the wake of this spike in attacks against Sikhs, Punjab’s chief minister (premier) Captain Amarinder Singh asked the country’s external affairs minister to take note and ensure safety to Sikhs abroad. “Another Sikh youth killed in suspected hate crime in US, seek your help to protect Sikhs living abroad,” Singh tweeted on Sunday.   Within a few hours, India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj replied in a tweet, “I have spoken to our Ambassador Mr. Navtej S. Sarna @IndianEmbassyUS. We are committed to help and protect all Indian citizens abroad.”

Sikh grocery-shop clerk shot dead in California.

On May 5, a Sikh man Jagjeet Singh, who worked as a clerk in a grocery shop, was stabbed to death by unidentified persons in Modesto City, California. Apparently, a shopper wanted to buy some cigarettes and Singh, 32, asked him for his ID. In California, a person has to be at least 21-year-old to buy tobacco products. If a merchant is caught selling to a minor, he can be fined and his license can also be cancelled. This peeved the male shopper, who immediately left fuming. Later that day, as Singh went out of the store, he was brutally attacked with a sharp edged weapon. Singh’s family in India told Hindustan Times newspaper that “Jagjeet has fallen victim to a hate crime.”

Sikh cab driver attacked, and turban tossed, in New York.

On April 15, a Sikh cab driver Harkirat Singh, 25, was roughed up and his turban was tossed by an intoxicated passenger. When Singh raised an alarm, the inebriated white male ran off with his turban. “At that time, I’m so afraid – they can do anything to me. They’re gonna kill me,” Singh said. “It’s an insult on my religion, also . . . an insult of my faith. It’s horrible.”

Harkirat Singh. Credit: The New York Daily News.

Sikh doctor receives death-threat call in Indiana.

Sikh American physician in Indiana, Amandeep Singh received death-threats from an anonymous person in March. A general internist at Monroe Hospital told the PTC news channel, “I believe if any human being goes through this, the emotion will be the same irrespective of their caste, color or religion. But it definitely creates fear among the general population and especially among the minorities.” Singh immigrated to the US nearly 14 years ago. He has been living in Indiana since last three years.

Dr. Amandeep Singh (Courtesy of PTC News)

Sikh man shot in arm in front of his house, in Washington.

On March 3, a gunman wounded a 39-year-old Sikh American in Kent, Washington. The victim was working on his vehicle when a six-foot-tall, stocky white male approached him on his driveway and started hurling verbal abuses. The masked man then shot the victim in the arm and shouted: “Go back to your own country.” The victim requested the law enforcement authorities that he wants to remain anonymous.

Sikh couple receive threat note in diaper, in Washington.

Indian American Sikh couple in Richmond, Washington, were shocked to receive a threat wrapped in a diaper, in March. The couple had returned from a dinner only to find an strange note in a diaper on their doorstep. The note read, “You are under attack” and “Watch yourself.” The couple later told news media that they have been skipping walks around the neighborhood with their newborn, out of fear.

All these incidents happened while the Sikh American community was trying to make all efforts to raise awareness against hate. Just a couple of months ago, Sikh gurdwaras (temples) were in news media for providing free food and shelter to the Oroville Dam evacuees. Several Sikh gurdwaras near Yuba area offered help to families evacuating the area when the local authorities ordered emergency evacuation due to cracks in the Dam’s emergency spillway.

Million-dollar advertisement campaign for awareness among Americans.

In the backdrop of increasing hate attacks against Sikhs, National Sikh Campaign (NSC) started a million dollar ad campaign to bring awareness regarding the Sikh faith. The We are Sikhs project that started on April 14 brought out a massive multimedia advertisement campaign, all over the country. The advertisements showed the origin of Sikh religion, and how Sikhs are part of the American fabric. Reportedly, Sikhs are often mistaken for Arabs or Muslims.

Credit: National Sikh Campaign.

No “mistaken” hate crime.

Sikhs are often taken for Arabs or people from Muslim faith. However, that is not reason to attack a person, said Sikh American physician Prabhjot Singh, 34, before the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary, on May 2. The three-time victim of hate attacks testified on hate motivated crimes. “We cannot accept this premise. There is no such thing as a “mistaken” hate crime. No one should ever be targeted,” Singh said. “The only mistake is thinking otherwise.”

Dr. Prabhjot Singh. Credit: The Sikh Coalition.

Angad Singh’s protest against hate crime in Times Square.

On March 27, Sikh American Angad Singh protested against the rising incidents of hate crime in New York City. “In New York City, in our city, hate crimes are up 24 percent in just the last year,” Singh told people at the Times Square. Singh tied his turban, headgear and Sikh article of faith, in public to raise awareness. He acknowledged that his turban makes him a target for hate crime, but he said that he is not scared. He said that it is the most American thing he could do. His Facebook video received more than 540K views.

Angad Singh in New York City’s Times Square.




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