Queens, N.Y, US: As per information available, a top US Congressman Joe Crowley, who had spearheaded the effort to encourage the Department of Justice and FBI to begin tracking and quantifying hate crimes against Sikhs, called on Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner William J. Bratton to develop a comprehensive action plan to address the recent surge of attacks on members of the New York Sikh community. “The disturbing pattern of escalating violence and hate against New York’s Sikh community is unacceptable and immediate steps are needed to both protect the community and prevent such attacks from happening in the first place,” said Crowley. “New York City should send a strong message that this kind of bigotry and violence will not be tolerated”, said Crowley. As part of an action plan, Crowley suggests the City consider expanding security presence at Sikh places of worship, designating a liaison to the Sikh community, and expanding the service of observant Sikhs beyond the Metropolitan Transit Authority to include service in the NYPD, as a way of demonstrating support for the Sikh community.
Crowley’s call comes in the wake of two separate attacks on Sikhs in New York City over the last two weeks alone. Dr. Jaspreet Singh Batra – a Sikh physician – was assaulted and injured in front of his elderly mother on Roosevelt Island, and Mr. Sandeep Singh—a Sikh business owner and father—was run over and seriously wounded by a driver in a pick-up truck in Queens. In both cases, the targets were subjected to bigoted slurs. These attacks sadly coincided with the second anniversary of the attack on the Sikh Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, which killed six worshippers and seriously injured several others, and come on the heels of last year’s brutal attack on Columbia University professor Dr. Prabhjot Singh that resulted in his hospitalization. Further, members of the Sikh community have shared with officials news of other instances of hate employed against them, which all too often were not reported to the authorities. “These attacks have created a situation in which the families that comprise New York’s Sikh community feel under siege – concerned even to carry out everyday activities like patronizing a restaurant, walking home from work or going shopping. Our city now faces a unique situation, in which a key community reports that they are living as targets for violent bigotry,” said Crowley in the letter.
Sikh-Americans are often targeted for hate crimes because of their distinct identity and common misperceptions with respect to their attire and appearance. Attackers sometimes appear to erroneously believe that Sikh-Americans are affiliated with extremists and were somehow responsible for the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States. In other circumstances they are attacked because of their Sikh identity. A recognized leader in Congress on issues related to the Sikh-American community, Crowley has led a major effort in the U.S. House of Representatives to convince the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to begin collecting data on hate crimes committed against Sikh-Americans and Hindu-Americans – introducing legislation and sending multiple letters to the DOJ and FBI. Last year, then-FBI Director Robert Mueller announced the agency would begin this program. Crowley’s efforts have been supported by the Sikh Coalition, American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Hindu American Foundation, Indian American Forum for Political Education, SALDEF, and South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) among other leading national organizations.