The US Sikh community on Tuesday offered a reward of $30,000 (about Rs 14 lakh) for information leading to the arrest of culprits who shot at two elderly men in Elk Grove, California, on Friday.
The local police said they suspected it to be a hate crime and had called in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to join the manhunt. The West Sacramento Police in California said the turbans worn by Surinder Singh, 68, and Gurmej Atwal, 78, could have led to the attack. While the former died on the spot, Atwal is still reported to be in a critical condition.
A top Islamic body has already offered a reward of $5,000 (over Rs 2 lakh). “Sikh men in beards and turbans are often targeted for discrimination by bigots who mistake them for Muslims,” said Basim Elkarra, executive director, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Sacramento chapter.
“The Muslim community offers its condolences and support to the Sikh community in this time of sorrow,” he said. Investigations have revealed that the assailants used a tan or light-brown Ford F150 pickup truck.
“The community and other organisations have offered a reward of $30,000 for the arrest of the suspects,” said Darshan Singh Mundy, spokesman for the Sacramento gurdwara, where a press conference was held on Monday.
It was attended by Elk Grove mayor Steve Detrick, state lawmakers Mariko Yamada and Roger Dickinson, and Basim Elkarra. Gurjatinder Singh Randhawa, chief editor of regional Sikh newspaper Punjab Mail USA and head of the NRI Front, USA, said this was the second such attack in the area.
About four months ago, Harbhajan Singh, a cab driver, was shot dead in West Sacramento, he said, adding that the assailant had been arrested.
“We urge Indian ambassador to the US Meera Shankar to take up the matter with the US government,” he said.
United Sikhs for thorough inquiry Fatehgarh Sahib: California-based United Sikhs, an organisation affiliated to the United Nations, has contacted Congress members, US attorney's office and the department of justice, calling for a thorough investigation into the attack to determine whether it was motivated by racial/religious animus. In a press release, United Sikhs director Kashmir Singh said the shooting had left the Sikh community in Sacramento as well as the rest of the country deeply affected. Meanwhile, Satnam Singh Paonta Sahib, a senior leader of Dal Khalsa, has urged the Barack Obama administration to take stringent measures to stop hate crimes targeting Sikhs and others since 9/11.
SGPC chief appeals to PM Amritsar
Expressing concern over the killing of a Sikh in California, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Avtar Singh Makkar has appealed to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to use diplomatic channels and take up the issue of safety of Sikhs residing in foreign countries.
In a statement, Makkar said Sikhs had contributed to the development of various countries and thus had the right to live a life of dignity and security.
Earlier, Makkar honoured Harinam Singh Khalsa, who has been spreading the message of Sikhism through TV channels in Canada.