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Outrage over shooting of Sikhs in US

world Updated: Mar 11, 2011 02:03 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
Surinder Singh

Surinder Singh is dead. His friend Gurmej Atwal is struggling for life in a hospital. The police don’t know who shot them. And a helpless community is wagering big time to find out the men and motivation behind this suspected case of hate crime.

Donations are pouring in from individuals and organizations to help set up a reward lucrative enough for someone to lead the police to the assailant(s). The amount stood at $30,000 Wednesday night.

The outrage against hate crimes is going viral centered on a Facebook page.

Singh, 65, and Atwal, 78, were neighbors in Elk Grove, Sacramento County, California. They went for walks in the morning and spent as much time together as they could, far away from their country of birth.

They were shot on March 4 as they walked outside their homes liked they had done for many weeks and months before in a quite Elk Grove neighbourhood. Singh used to drive truck before retiring and Atwal was a civil servant in India.

There is no evidence yet to suggest they were victims of hate crimes. But the police are not ruling it out.

“We are treating the case as a potential hate crime because neither have we developed any information that it is not,” said Elk Grove police Chief Robert Lehner.

“The obvious Sikh appearance of the victims and the apparent lack of another motive mean we must assume that it is a hate crime until we can definitively determine otherwise,” he added.

And the disgust against hate crimes is spurring the community to action.

Among the organizations raising funds to catch the killer(s) is the Council on Islamic American Relations. It has contributed $5,000, according to a statement issued by Sacramento Sikh Temple.

The police too are hoping it would help. “We are hopeful that the reward will be the catalyst that convinces someone to provide information to the police department,” said Officer Christopher Trim from the local police department.

“I am aware of a number of other community organizations that are actively raising funds and will make commitments in the coming week,” said Amar Shergill, a lawyer spearheading the community’s campaign for justice.

As is the drill in suspected cases of hate crimes, the local police are in touch with the Federal Bureau of Investigations. The Elk Grove police have identified the car used in the crime and are seeking public’s help to track its driver.

The campaign for justice is now going viral on the Internet, with a Facebook page inviting people to a vigil on Friday. Posts range from announcement of participation to pledging support.

“When people feel it is acceptable to degrade and disregard the value of another human being in speech, it is only a matter of time before someone will act on it. Please fight hate,” said a post left on the page by Adnan Hussein.

Is this going to tbe Jessica moment for the US?