Shocked by the Indianapolis carnage, Sikh community calls for action

Indianapolis shooting: Amarjit Kaur Johal is one of the eight killed in a mass shooting at a FedEx facility on Thursday night.
Amarjit Kaur Johal is one of the eight people killed in a mass shooting at a FedEx facility on Thursday night. ; image via facebook

Four of the eight dead in the mass shooting identified as members of Indianapolis’ Sikh community.

As details of Thursday’s mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis emerged this weekend, Indiana’s Sikh community, which is still in a state of shock, is grieving the victims.

Four of the eight killed are members of the local Sikh community.

The eight victims have been identified as Amarjit Kaur Sekhon, Jaswinder Kaur, Amarjit Kaur Johal, Jaswinder Singh, Karli Smith, Samaria Blackwell and John White. The shooter also took his own life.

The shooting took place at the FedEx Ground facility on the Southside of the city.

Of the four victims belonging to the Sikh faith, Jaswinder Singh had recently moved to the United States from the Indian state of Punjab, and started working at the FedEx location only a week ago. He reportedly took up the job because he was bored at home and was very excited to be picking up his first pay check.

One of the injured, Harpreet Singh Gill, was shot in the skull and was operated upon at a local hospital.

According to local media reports in Indianapolis the FedEx facility where the carnage took place has a substantial number of Sikhs in the workforce.

The Sikh community in Indianapolis is a closely knit one with a majority of its members involved in trucking industry or small businesses. According to the civil and human rights group Sikh Coalition, there are “an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 Sikh Americans” living in Indiana, which has 10 gurudwaras, or houses of worship.

“Like all of Indianapolis, our community is coming together to grieve and mourn after Thursday night’s horrific attack,” said a joint statement by eight Indianapolis-area Gurdwaras, issued through the Sikh Coalition. “Eight people, including four from our community, have been taken from their families, friends, and communities, and others are still injured. We are praying for the families of all involved, that they may find peace and begin the long path to physical, mental, and spiritual healing.”

The gurdwaras that issued the statement include Gurdwara Gur Nanak Darbar (Plainfield), Gurdwara Guru Nanak Sikh Society (Raymond), Gurdwara Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib (Greenwood), Gurdwara Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis (Acton), Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar (Fishers), Gurdwara Sri Guru Granth Sahib Society (McCordsville), Darbar Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Indianapolis), and the Sikh Society of Indianapolis.

“We are grieving the victims and those in the #Indianapolis community affected by last night’s horrific shooting— including our own Sikh sangat (community members),” the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), a Sikh American media, policy and education organization, tweeted. “Our prayers are with the victim’s families and those impacted by yet another senseless act of violence.”

An Indiana-based community leader termed the shooting as “very unfortunate and extremely heart breaking.”

“The loss from this devastating event is unfathomable and irrecoverable,” said Gurinder Singh Khalsa, Fishers, Indiana,-based Chairman of SikhsPAC, a Sikh political action committee. “I give my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims of this fatal event.”

The carnage was the 54th mass shooting — in which at least four people are wounded or killed —  reported in the United States in the past month and 147th of the year, according to the Sun.

In the past two decades, Sikh Americans have been targets of a number of attacks across the United States. In August 2012, a gunman with neo-Nazi ties barged into a gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and opened fire killing six worshipers and wounding several others.

The gurudwaras said in their statement that even though the motive of the shooter is not known — “and and we may never know for sure what drove him to do what he did” — “We do know, however, that the FedEx facility he targeted was well known for having a large Sikh workforce.”

“Given everything our community has experienced in the past — the pattern of violence, bigotry, and backlash we have faced — it is impossible not to feel that same pain and targeting in this moment,” the statement said. “We expect that the authorities will continue their full investigation and share what they learn when they can, and they will take this into account.”

The gurudwaras said while the Sikh community is “grateful for the messages of love and support coming from around the state, country, and world,” now “we must all work together not just to heal, but to take action and confront the terrible plague of hate and acts of mass violence like this that threaten us all.”

Echoing the sentiment, Khalsa urged the elected officials to act. He said, “I pray that these will be the last condolences I will have to give, but realistically I know that is not the case. Without action from our elected officials on all levels of government, this is something that will continue to tear apart our nation. The only time to act is now.”

The Sikh leader added, “Situations like these are becoming a part of everyday life as an American. We are the most powerful nation on the face of the earth, and have been founded on liberty and justice for all people. The issue of mass shootings has affected people from all walks of life, regardless of someone’s age, race, or social status.”

In the aftermath of the shooting, President Joe Biden renewed his calls for reducing gun violence on Friday. “Vice President Harris and I have been briefed on the mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis,” he tweeted. “God bless the eight individuals we lost and their loved ones, and we pray for the wounded for their recovery. We can, and must, do more to reduce gun violence and save lives.”

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