On April 3, Sunday, a 75-year-old Indian Sikh was attacked while he was on his way to Gurudwara Sahib in Queens, New York to offer his obeisance. The victim, identified as Nirmal Singh, suffered a broken nose and bruising to his face. The New York police said that the attack that took place on 95th Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard at around 6:45 am was unprovoked since no words were exchanged prior to the assault.
According to reports, Nirmal Singh was taking a morning walk when he was attacked from behind. The miscreants punched his face, causing him to fall to the ground, leaving him severely bleeding. Some local residents witnessed Singh sitting with bloodstains on his clothes and face on a bench on the street and clicked his photographs and posted them online.
The attacker did not say a word and fled after the assault, the police said, confirming that the incident was being investigated as a hate crime.
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Singh had come to New York City for the first time, two weeks ago. The area where he was attacked is roughly a block away from the Sikh Cultural Society, where Singh had been staying.
Harpreet Singh Toor, chairman of the Sikh Cultural Society, told CBS New York media in New York, “He was just walking and a man came from behind and hit him in the face.”
“Any attack just because you look different is an attack against everybody, not just that person (who has been attacked) and it has to stop,” Toor added.
Following the incident, the South Asian community in New York are outraged. Many have come forward to condemn the act and express their concern for the safety of the Indian diaspora in the area.
Japneet Singh, a community activist, contended that the attack on Nirmal Singh was racially motivated. “People approach us in a certain way because of the way we look,” he lambasted, adding that, within the South Asian community, Sikh men are the most vulnerable to hate crimes due to the turban they wear.
Meanwhile, the USA-based Sikh Coalition also tweeted about the attack. In a thread of Tweets, the Sikh organisation not only condemned the attack on the 75-year-old Sikh but also provided updates on the developments that have taken place post the assault. The organisation said that “Nirmal Singh, the elderly Sikh man who was attacked in Queens, NY on Sunday, has retained the Sikh Coalition to provide him with free legal aid moving forward.”
Additional Update: Mr. Nirmal Singh, the elderly Sikh man who was attacked in Queens, NY on Sunday, has retained the Sikh Coalition to provide him with free legal aid moving forward.— Sikh Coalition (@sikh_coalition) April 4, 2022
It also said that “with the assistance of local community leaders, the @sikh_coalition has made indirect contact with the community member who was assaulted in Queens, NY on Sunday morning.”
Responding to the Tweet posted by Sikh Coalition, Queens Borough president Donovan Richards’ Tweeted on April 4, “My office is also aware of this incident in #RichmondHill earlier today, and we are contacting the @NYPDnews to learn more details about this reported attack. Our thoughts are with him and we wish for nothing less than a full recovery.”
My office is also aware of this incident in #RichmondHill earlier today, and we are contacting the @NYPDnews to learn more details about this reported attack.— Queens Borough President Donovan Richards (@QnsBPRichards) April 3, 2022
Our thoughts are with him and we wish for nothing less than a full recovery. https://t.co/toM9Hy8mGf
Adrienne Adams, speaker of the New York City Council also Tweeted about the violent attack on the Indian Sikh.
Meanwhile, Nirmal Singh’s son, Manjit Singh Kalley, who lives in Abbotsford, responded to the incident by saying, “Dad is feeling really bad.” It was the first time he went there and this happened.”
“Whatever happened needs justice. Why did it happen? Every time, why do people attack my community? This shouldn’t happen to just my community but any community. No one should go through this,” Kalley said.
Kalley said his father lives in India but recently got a visa to travel to the United States and Canada. He planned to go to the U.S. first for a few weeks, despite his family discouraging him from going to NYC alone. Kalley said he hopes to fly to New York to be with his father this week.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) has, meanwhile, launched an investigation into the case. NYPD Lt. Thomas Antonetti was quoted by local media as saying that the NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force is investigating the incident. However, as of Monday, the New York police had not been able to identify any suspects nor make any arrests in the case.
In a similar racist attack, on September 11, 2021, a 44-year-old Hindu man and his family were performing a small religious ceremony in the Streetsville park in Mississauga city, Canada at around 5:30 PM when two male teens approached them and started abusing them. They also assaulted the man and threw rocks at him. The man was able to flee from the park with his family in the car. The accused kept throwing rocks at them while they were leaving the park resulting in damaging the car.
Last year, Canadian-Indians who had organised a rally to celebrate India-Canada ties were attacked by pro-Khalistani elements who not only hurled abuses at them and ask them to ‘go drink urine’, but also insulted the Indian National Flag.
Likewise in October 2019, Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh, was asked to ‘cut his turban off’ by a stranger in the streets of Montreal’s Atwater Market. Singh had later taken to Twitter to talk about the incident and said, “do not change who you are”.
In fact, data released by Vancouver police last year had revealed an increasing trend of anti-Asian hate crimes in Canada. The data had suggested that the number of incidents had increased from 142 in 2019 to 280 in 2020, an increase of 97 per cent. There had also been an increase in hate crimes, particularly those against people of Asian descent. The Vancouver police data said that anti-Asian hate crimes rose from 12 cases in 2019 to 142 such incidents in 2020, a 717 per cent increase.