Sikh Gentlemen Gunned Down in California:
Law Enforcement Urged to Investigate as a Potential Hate Crime;
Community Asked to be Vigilant
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.
- 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
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
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?
UNITED SIKHS has information available on hate crimes in English and
Panjabi. Please contact 1-888-243-1690 or email
firstname.lastname@example.org to request Hate Crime Information cards.
- 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.
|Hate Crime Card (English). Click
here to view a larger version
|Hate Crime Card (Punjabi). Click
here to view a larger version
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:
Look for updates on current hate crimes cases, employment
discrimination cases, and religious accommodation cases from UNITED
SIKHS in coming weeks!
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