Indian-Americans grieve victims from community

There were more than 160 workers at the FedEx facility at the time of the shooting, according to local reports
Investigators at the scene of the crime in Indianapolis(REUTERS)
Investigators at the scene of the crime in Indianapolis(REUTERS)
Updated on Apr 18, 2021 01:52 AM IST
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ByYashwant Raj, Washington

Four members of the local Sikh community were among eight killed in a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis in the US state of Indiana on Thursday night, prompting concerns among Indian-Americans and calls for an investigation into possible racial or ethnic hatred as a factor.

The victims were identified by local authorities as Amarjeet Kaur Johal, 66; Jaswinder Kaur, 64; Amarjit Sekhon, 48; and Jaswinder Singh, 68.

“I am heartbroken to confirm that my naniji (maternal grandmother), Amarjeet Kaur Johal, is among those killed in the senseless shooting at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis,” Komal Chouhan, a member of the local Sikh community said in a statement released by the Sikh Coalition, an advocacy group.

There were more than 160 workers at the FedEx facility at the time of the shooting, according to local reports. Though no counts were available of Sikhs among them, anecdotal accounts pointed to a sizable presence.

”I have several family members who work at the particular facility and are traumatised,” Chouhan said further, adding: “My nani, my family, and our families should not feel unsafe at work, at their place of worship, or anywhere. Enough is enough — our community has been through enough trauma.”

US President Joe Biden echoed the frustration in remarks from the White House. “This has to end. It’s a national embarrassment. It is a national embarrassment what’s going on,” he said at a joint news conference he addressed with his first foreign guest after taking office, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

India’s external affairs minister S Jaishankar said in a tweet: “Deeply shocked by the shooting incident at FedEx facility in Indianapolis. Victims include persons of Indian American Sikh community. Our Consulate (in Chicago)@IndiainChicago is in touch with the Mayor and local authorities in Indianapolis as well as the community leaders.” “Will render all possible assistance.” Biden unveiled a modest package of gun law reforms last week to stop the “epidemic” of gun violence. A legislation is before the congress for expanding background checking, but experts say it has no chance of being passed. And there is no movement towards banning military-style assault rifles that have been used most frequently in mass shootings in the US.

The police identified 19-year-old Brandon Scott Hole as the shooter in the FedEx incident. He was previously employed at the facility, the police said, adding that he was found dead with an apparent gunshot wound at the facility. No details were available of the motive behind the crime. The Associated Press reported citing officials that police were searching a home in Indianapolis related to the shooter and that they seized certain items as evidence. The death of members of the Sikh community came to light later as victims had not been officially identified till Friday evening. The Sikh Coalition was first to report it late afternoon, saying it was “deeply saddened to learn” that Sikh community members were among those killed. It followed up with an update saying four of them were Sikhs.

The community was still not sure how many of their members were injured in the shooting. “I have sat with families from our community and so many others at the (local) Holiday Inn Express as they wait to hear the fates of their loved ones,” said community member Maninder Singh Walia, in the statement from Sikh Coalition. The Sikh community has been battling social, religious and racial bias and violence for years in the US. The first person killed in the 9/11 backlash in 2001 was a Sikh man in Arizona, mistaken for a turbaned West Asian. In 2012, six members of the community were gunned down by a white supremacist at a gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

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Monday, January 17, 2022