A Sikh professor who wrote a New York Times op-ed last year about hate crimes against American Sikhs was attacked by a group of young men in an incident being investigated as a hate crime.
Prabhjot Singh, an assistant professor at Columbia University was attacked last Saturday around 8.30pm (local time) while taking a walk in the Harlem neighbourhood of Manhattan with a friend.
“They were first abused verbally and were called Osama and terrorist,” Simranjeet Singh, a close friend of the victim, told HT.
“I heard ‘Get Osama’ and then ‘terrorists’, and then the next thing I felt was someone moving past me, ripping at my beard and then hitting me in the chin,” Prabhjot Singh told a local news channel.
Singh said he started running and was punched in the face and on his sides. The attackers continued to kick and punch me after I fell to the ground, he said. “I would have died if passers-by hadn’t helped get the young men off me,” he added.
“There’s no doubt in my mind it was a bias-related event,” he was quoted as saying. Singh was taken to a hospital with a fractured jaw.
The attack, he said, made him worry that his one-year-old son, "who will certainly resemble a Sikh man", will face similar hatred as he gets older.
"I've written about this in the past. But it's one thing to go from writing about something to receiving an assault. It's scary," he said.
"It's not the neighbourhood I know. I work in this community. It's just not American. It's important that they are caught and be held responsible for what they did," he added.
In an online post, Simranjeet Singh said Prabhjot was also a resident physician at a leading New York hospital and “drew upon his experiences to help improve the health of local communities like Harlem.”
“The scariest moment for them was when one of the assailants put a hand in his coat, as if reaching for a weapon,” said Singh, who wrote a blog about it in Huffington Post.
Condemning the attack, North American Punjabi Association urged the US government to begin tracking and counting anti-Sikh hate crimes.
The New York Police Department is investigating the case as a possible hate crime, a classification that helps track such incidents nationally leading to better law enforcement.