Sikh-owned restaurant vandalised in US, racist graffiti written at site
India Palace restaurant, owned by Baljit Singh, in Santa Fe city in the US state of New Mexico suffers damages worth Rs 75.6 lakh; vandals wrote slogans in support of President Donald Trump and “white power”, and racist remarks such as “go home”
An Indian restaurant owned by a Sikh in the Sante Fe city in the US state of New Mexico was broken into and vandalised with hate messages scrawled on its walls, according to a media report.
The damages caused to India Palace restaurant is estimated to be worth $100,000 (Rs 75.6 lakh), local Santa Fe Reporter newspaper reported on Tuesday.
The attack is being investigated by local police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The Sikh American Legal Defence and Education Fund (SALDEF), a non-profit civil rights organisation, condemned the incident. “This kind of hate and violence is unacceptable and swift action must be taken to ensure the safety and security of all Americans,” said SALDEF executive director Kiran Kaur Gill.
SMASHED, GUTTED AND ABUSED
According to the local daily, tables were overturned, glassware was smashed into piles on the floor, wine racks were emptied, a statue of a goddess was beheaded and computers were stolen. The vandals also turned over and destroyed food warmers, while the front desk area was gutted, plates smashed and the kitchen rendered completely unusable, it said.
“I walked into the kitchen, I saw everything and I was like, hold on, what? What is going on here?” owner Baljit Singh told Santa Fe Reporter. “White power,” “Trump 2020,” “Go home,” and far worse were spray-painted on walls, doors, counters and any other available surface. “Some phrases contained threats of violence and derogatory racial slurs,” the daily said.
The restaurant had reopened only recently after being closed due to the Covid-19 restrictions.
“Santa Fe is a peaceful town, and the Sikh community has lived here, beautifully integrated, since the ’60s,” said SALDEF board member Simran Singh, who lives minutes away from the restaurant.
“Tensions have flared recently with the reinvigoration of the Black Lives Matter movement and the removal of statues associated with Spanish colonisers of this area, who committed a number of atrocities,” he said.
“Nevertheless, we are seeing an outpouring of love and support around the city and in my experience, our neighbours love and appreciate us, as we love and appreciate them,” he added.
COMMUNITY COMES OUT IN SUPPORT
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham tweeted on Tuesday, “We will not stand for such hatred in New Mexico.” She added that she had spoken to Baljit Singh to “let him know that our community is with him”.
Mayor Alan Webber described the vandalism a “sickening and appalling” hate crime and vowed, “We will find whoever did it and punish them to the full extent of the law.”
He said, “The Singhs are a long-standing Sikh family that has used its own resources to feed homeless Santa Feans through the goodness of their hearts. For them to be attacked this way breaks our hearts.”
The Singh family distributes free packages of food and sanitary products for homeless people in the area and these items were stolen during the attack, according to the Reporter.
The Reporter said that five fundraising campaigns have been launched to help the restaurant.
A GoFundMe campaign by another restaurant, Paper Dosa, had raised more than $35,000 (Rs 26.4 lakh), the New Mexican said.
MISTAKEN FOR TERROR OUFIT ISLAMIC STATE
One of the pictures of the graffiti posted on the Reporter’s website was against the terrorist organisation Islamic State.
Because of their turbans, Sikhs are sometimes mistaken for Islamists or Iranian clergy who are represented in the media with turbans and are attacked.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said in a statement, “This disturbing hate attack once again demonstrates that growing white supremacy, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and racism target every minority community and must be challenged by people of all races, faiths and backgrounds.”
SALDEF said that it has seen an unprecedented rise in hate crimes including the April 29 incident wherein a Sikh American Lakhwant Singh was brutally attacked by a man identified as Eric Breeman in Lakewood, Colorado.
Lakhwant Singh was told to “go back to your country,” while being attacked. No formal hate crime charges have been brought against the attacker.