UNITED SIKHSWinner of the Sikhs and Charities Award
March 07, 2011
25th Phagun (Samvat 542 Nanakshahi)
Press Release
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Two Sikh Gentlemen Gunned Down in California:
Law Enforcement Urged to Investigate as a Potential Hate Crime;
Community Asked to be Vigilant

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • UNITED SIKHS has contacted Members of Congress, US Attorney's Office in California, and Department of Justice to ensure that thorough investigations will be conducted to determine whether this crime was motivated by racial/ religious animus
  • Community members asked to be vigilant and participate in awareness efforts about Sikhs
  • Know Your Rights! Review information from the Hate Crimes Information Card below
Sacramento, California: The shooting of two elderly Sikh gentleman in the Elk Grove neighborhood on Friday, March 4, 2011 has left the Sikh community in Sacramento as well as the rest of the country deeply affected. Surinder Singh and Gurtej Atwal  were on an afternoon walk when they were gunned down. Surinder Singh died, and Gurtej Atwal is in critical condition.

According to The Sacramento Bee, the police is investigating this shooting as a possible hate crime because of the traditional clothing of the gentlemen, including a Dastaar (turban) and full beards. UNITED SIKHS offers its deepest condolences to the families of these gentlemen and the Sikh community in Sacramento, and urges law enforcement and lawmakers to ensure that thorough investigations will be conducted to determine whether this crime was motivated by racial/ religious animus. The legal team has contacted Members of Congress, US Attorney's Office in California, and Department of Justice regarding the incident.

Kashmir Singh, UNITED SIKHS Director from California said, "The Sikh community in California is visibly shaken by this incident, which follows closely on a similar incident on a Sikh taxi driver a few months ago. Sikhs are targeted because of their external religious identity, which is ignorantly equated or linked to terrorism. Needless violence occurs because of a gap in knowledge about who Sikhs really are."

In addition to education, messaging about matters of national security are also important. Hansdeep Singh, Senior Staff Attorney said, "Currently, we live in a climate where government officials, like Congressman Peter King, seek to alienate religious minorities by calling for hearings that only discuss extremism within the Muslim community. Our history is rife with examples of targeting minority communities (i.e. Japanese), instead, we should examine the impact of how vilifying a particular group permeates the societal consciousness and inevitably leads to hate or bias based attacks."

What can community members do?
  • Be alert and vigilant!
  • Participate in education and awareness efforts about who Sikhs are and the importance of articles of faith.
  • Know your rights. Have information in case you are involved or witness a hate crime.
UNITED SIKHS has information available on hate crimes in English and Panjabi. Please contact 1-888-243-1690 or email unitedsikhs-usa@unitedsikhs.org to request Hate Crime Information cards.
Hate Crime Card
Hate Crime Card (English). Click here to view a larger version
 
Hate Crime Card
Hate Crime Card (Punjabi). Click here to view a larger version
UNITED SIKHS is continuing to work with lawmakers and like-minded organizations, and has recommended that:
  • Hate/Bias statutes urgently require revision to ensure that the definitions of hate or bias crimes do not rely solely on a connection to hate or bias speech associated with the crime. As we see in this case in Sacramento, hate crimes may also occur without any connection to hate or bias speech.
  • Government agencies and leaders should be especially careful about the speech they use connecting terrorism or other criminal acts to particular religions, races, or ethnicities.
  • There is urgent need for educational programs to be instituted in schools to educate students and staff on diversity issues, critical thinking, and to inform students and staff specifically about Sikhs.

If you have any information about the shooting, please contact the Elk Grove Police Department Communication Center at (916) 714-5115 or Crime Alert at (916) 443-HELP (4357).

To report a hate crime to UNITED SIKHS, please click here: http://unitedsikhs.org/reporthc.php

Look for updates on current hate crimes cases, employment discrimination cases, and religious accommodation cases from UNITED SIKHS in coming weeks!

Issued by:
Jaspreet Singh
Legal Director
law-usa@unitedsikhs.org
1-888-243-1690
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