Sikh rights group asks US authorities to probe Washington state shooting as 'hate crime'

New York: A Sikh rights group has asked US authorities to investigate as a hate crime the attack on a 39-year-old Sikh man amid the Indian-American community's safety concerns after a slew of bias-related incidents in the country.

Sikhs have been at the receiving end of hate crimes in the US since the 9/11 attacks. Reuters representational image

Sikhs have been at the receiving end of hate crimes in the US since the 9/11 attacks. Reuters representational image

The Sikh man, identified as US national Deep Rai by Indian officials in New Delhi, was shot in the arm outside his house in Kent, Washington, by a partially-masked gunman who shouted "go back to your own country". The gunman allegedly got into an altercation with Rai before shooting him in the arm.

The Sikh Coalition, along with local community leaders, has asked local, state and federal officials to investigate this shooting as an anti-Sikh hate crime as well as to improve bias prevention laws and organise 'Know Your Rights' forums to build community resilience and reduce the likelihood of future hate crimes.

It said shooting in Kent, that has left Rai injured, follows the larger national pattern of hate violence directed at minority communities across the US in the wake of the presidential election. "Investigating this as an anti-Sikh hate crime is critical, because without our government agencies recognising hatred for what it is, we can't combat the problem," said Seattle-area Sikh community leader, Jasmit Singh.

The Sikh Coalition said the Sikh-American community, which has been an integral part of the American fabric for over 125 years, is estimated to be hundreds of times more likely to suffer hate crimes than the average American, in part due to the Sikh articles of faith, including a turban and beard, which represent the Sikh religious commitment to justice, tolerance and equality.

"While we appreciate the efforts of State and local officials to respond to attacks like this, we need our national leaders to make hate crime prevention a top priority," Sikh Coalition Interim Programme manager Rajdeep Singh said in a statement. "Tone matters in our political discourse, because this a matter of life or death for millions of Americans who are worried about losing loved ones to hate," he said.

Jasmit Singh said said the men from his community have reported a rise in incidents of verbal abuse, "a kind of prejudice, a kind of xenophobia that is nothing that we've seen in the recent past".

He said the number of incidents targeting members of the Sikh religion, are reminiscent of the aftermath of the 11 September, 2001, terror attacks. "But at that time, it felt like the (presidential) administration was actively working to allay those fears,"
Jasmit Singh said, adding that "now it's a very different dimension".

The attack comes close on the heels of the tragic hate crime shooting in Kansas last month in which 32-year-old Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla was killed when 51-year-old US Navy veteran Adam Purinton opened fire at him and his friend Alok Madasani, yelling "get out of my country".

Earlier this week, Indian-origin convenience store owner Harnish Patel, 43, of Lancaster in South Carolina was found dead of gun shot wounds in his yard.

Updated Date: Mar 05, 2017 14:35 PM

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