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Saddened and disturbed by recent hate crimes against Sikhs: Indian-origin mayor in New Jersey

Washington: Calling the recent crimes against Sikhs in New York and other parts of the US ‘reprehensible’ acts of hate and violence, the mayor of Hoboken city in the US state of New Jersey expressed concern over the rising hate crimes against the minority community in the country.

Mayor Ravi S Bhalla’s Sunday statement came days after he opened up about being the target of a series of letters that threatened to kill him and his family.

The letters that he received last year first called on Bhalla to resign but then began threatening his and his family’s life, targeting him for his Sikh faith, CBS News reported on Tuesday.

“I am disturbed and saddened by the recent hate crimes that have shaken the Sikh community in Richmond Hill, New York, where one Sikh man was assaulted and an attempt was made to forcibly remove his turban, and another senior Sikh individual was subjected to a violent assault and died of his injuries,” Bhalla said in the statement.

A 19-year-old Sikh boy was assaulted and injured in New York on Wednesday for wearing a turban while travelling in a shuttle bus. A 26-year-old man was later arrested and charged with a hate crime for the attack.

“These reprehensible acts of hate and violence strike at the heart of our shared American values of unity, diversity, and acceptance,” said Bhalla, the only Sikh American Mayor in the US.

“In these moments, it is important that we come together to reaffirm our shared commitment to fostering a climate of understanding and compassion for our friends and neighbours everywhere,” he said.

“As a public official and Hoboken’s Mayor, I pledge to speak out and take action against any form of hatred, intolerance, or discrimination and to remember that diversity is our strength,” said Bhalla.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attack by the Palestinian militant group Hamas against Israel, there has been a sudden spurt in hate crimes against the Sikh community in the US.

“I had seen the 9/11 time when we were at the forefront of hate crime because of our appearance. People co-relate us with the radical Islamic people,” said Gurinder Singh Khalsa, founder and chairman of the Sikhs Political Action Committee.

“We request all the Sikh community to be alert and immediately alert law enforcement agencies in the case of an untoward incident,” said Khalsa, who had launched a nationwide campaign that forced the federal government to bar law enforcement agencies from screening or touching pagris (turban) of Sikhs entering the security screening at airports.

“The recent surge in hate crime attacks against the Sikhs in the US is unfortunate. It’s an alarming situation. We urge the Biden Administration and all the State Governments to take steps to prevent any such hate crimes and immediately bring to book those responsible for it,” said Jassee Singh, chairman of the ‘Sikhs of America’ organisation.

Last week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released its annual report of hate crimes statistics, reflecting information about hate crimes for 2022. It said anti-Sikh hate crime victimisations were recorded as the highest number ever at 198, and Sikhs remain the second-most targeted group in the nation for religiously-motivated hate crime incidents.

(Published 23 October 2023, 03:15 IST)

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