New York [US], April 16 (ANI): The South Asian community in New York has been shaken in recent weeks by a string of hate crimes against Sikh men in Richmond Hill, a neighbourhood sometimes called Little Punjab that is home to a large Sikh community and a prominent Sikh temple.
Liam Stack and Samira Asma-Sadeque, writing in The New York Times (NYT), said that within 10 days, three Sikhs were attacked in the New York City block. Residents are fearful in a quiet Queens neighbourhood, where younger Sikhs have begun to escort their elders to the temple.
Gulzar Singh was walking to work on Tuesday morning, chatting with his wife on a video call, when he was attacked. Two men beat the 45-year-old Sikh across the back of the head, ripped off his turban and left him bleeding on the sidewalk in a quiet Queens neighbourhood.
Ten minutes later, on the same block, another Sikh man, Sajan Singh, 58, was attacked from behind by two men who beat him, robbed him and ripped off his turban. Nine days earlier, Nirmal Singh, 70, yet another Sikh man, had been assaulted on the same tree-lined street, reported NYT.
"I thought the first attack was isolated and did not think anything beyond that," said Gulzar Singh, a construction worker who came to the United States from India in 2015.
The second round of attacks that happened on the same morning as the mass shooting that injured at least 23 people on the subway in Brooklyn, has left many Sikhs deeply afraid, said Stack and Asma-Sadeque.
"Incidents like this make you think again," said Sukhjinder Singh Nijjar, a representative of the Sikh Cultural Society, after a rally in Richmond Hill on Thursday.
Two men have been arrested in connection with the attacks. Vernon Douglas, 19, was charged on Thursday with assault as a hate crime, robbery and aggravated harassment, in connection with the April 4 attack.
Hezekiah Coleman, 20, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with assault as a hate crime, robbery as a hate crime and aggravated harassment.
But Sikhism remains widely misunderstood in the United States. Many Sikh victims of hate crimes were mistaken for Muslims, a religious community that has faced widespread discrimination in the United States in recent decades, said Stack and Asma-Sadeque.
In the first month after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Sikh Coalition documented more than 300 instances of violence and discrimination against Sikhs in the United States.
The attacks this month in Queens are part of an alarming increase over the last few years in the number of anti-Sikh hate crimes reported to federal law enforcement.
According to the latest FBI hate crimes report, 94 anti-Sikh incidents were reported to law enforcement in 2020, compared with 44 in 2018, reported NYT.
Earlier in April, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar too had raised the issue of attacks on Sikhs in America during his US visit.
Answering a query about US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's remarks at the joint press conference after the 2+2 dialogue, Jaishankar said India also takes a view on other people's human rights situation, including that of the United States and raises matters concerning the Indian community. (ANI)