The Sikh Coalition coordinated a march for Sikh children in response to the recent wave of attacks on Sikh kids in New York area schools. Here are some photos and news reports from the event.
Fox Video: Sikhs Protest in Queens
New York Times: Queens Sikhs March Against Bias Crimes
Sikh Pulse: United Front
The Sikh Coalition reports that Gurprit Kaur is the latest victim of school hatred — her hair was clipped by another student. The group has organized a March on June 30 to demand rights for students in New York. Unfortunately I’ll be out of town.
Excerpt from the press release:
On Monday, June 9, 2008 at approximately 11:00 am while in English class, Gurprit’s classmate told her that a portion of her braided hair had been cut off. Gurprit did not notice while her hair was being cut behind her back. Given the deep spiritual significance of her hair, Gurprit was extremely upset. She immediately conveyed her dismay to teachers.
Gurprit’s school conducted an investigation and within hours advised her that a classmate (a juvenile who shall remain nameless) had admitted to cutting her hair during a class they share together and where they sit next to each other. The school returned Gurprit’s hair to her wadded in a tissue. The perpetrator was suspended the same day.
Update 6/26/2008: Sign this Petition
Another Sikh child, Jagmohan Singh, was attacked in school. He was brutally punched in the face by a fellow student, according to the latest reports. The Sikh Coalition had a press conference about the matter a few days ago.
This is an interesting case, because the school knew about the problem, according to the coalition press release:
Jagmohan’s tormentor has a long history of harassing him at school. He pulled on Jagmohan’s beard in class and squeezed his jurdha (hair top knot). He continually made fun of Jagmohan’s patka and jurdha, asking Jagmohan if he ever washed his hair and demanding that Jagmohan remove his patka and show him his hair.
Jagmohan reported this harassment to teachers, but the tormentor was not stopped by teachers or administrators at Richmond Hill High School.
Here’s the latest writeup. Watch this post for updates.
Another Sikh Boy Suffers Hate Assault in New York City School
A great report on the Sukhvir Singh case by KCTS featuring good friend of Sikh Swim, Hardeep Singh. Check it out below!
This happened only a couple towns over from where I currently live and where I grew up, so I’m particularly shocked by this. Lighting another student on fire is unbelieveable, and lighting a student’s turban on fire is even harder to imagine.
The school has already taken steps to resolve the situation — including the permanent dismissal of the perpetrator. The Sikh Coalition is to be applauded for its quick action in this case.
The last time something like this happened, it was in Marlboro, NJ. Here’s the Sikh Coalition’s summary of it, and here’s a decent article about it: Speaker offers insight to ancient Sikh religion –
Incident at Marlboro Middle School prompts lesson for student leaders. I’d certainly be happy to help in any way I can.
Update 6/9/08: Looks like the perpetrator was permanently dismissed from the school and charged with a hate crime. Click for more details.
On Saturday May 10, 2008, accused murderous mob leader Kamal Nath spoke at Northwestern University.
The nationally renowned Sikh Coalition notified its members and encouraged them to write to Northwestern’s administration (which I did). Sikhtoons posted this take on the situation.
So what’s the deal? How did we get here? Various human rights organizations report Kamal Nath as being a key facilitator in the 1984 pogroms, where thousands of innocent Sikhs were killed. Sanjay Suri, a journalist, reported Kamal Nath’s presence controlling the crowd that attacked Gurudwara Rakab Ganj. You can see the details in a report produced by Ensaaf. Click here for the report, and just search it for Kamal Nath (pages 54, 72, 104, 127).
So why isn’t Kamal Nath behind bars? This case reminded me of a NYTimes article I read 8 years ago. Read it!
In India the Wheels of Justice Hardly Move
By BARRY BEARAK
Published: June 1, 2000
Way back when or, to be more precise, way, way, way back when — an illiterate meat cutter, Abdul Waheed, filed a lawsuit against his next-door-neighbor, a stubborn milk merchant named Mohammad Nanhe.
The article talks about how tiny cases take many decades to resolve. Just imagine how long it would take to resolve a case involving a powerful politician!
Organizations like Ensaaf (the word translates to Justice) are doing everything in their power to make sure justice is served. That’s all we as citizens of the world can want — a justice system that works. And of course, it is our duty to protect “justice for all,” which is what makes America so great.
For more information, I encourage you to see the movie Amu. The Indian censor board cut 6 lines of dialog from the film, saying, “Why should young people know a history that is best forgotten?”
Finally, the Chicago Tribune’s Mandy Brachear has this post on the story.
The SeattlePI has printed an eye-opening article on Sukhvir Singh, the recent victim of a hate attack in Seattle. The article traces Sukhvir Singh’s history and shows him for the person he is. It’s definitely worth a close read.
Robert Jamieson has done a great job of highlighting some deeper points, too. Here’s one of them, when Jamieson observes Vazquez at his sentencing:
I looked at Vazquez, too, and thought the venom he spewed in the cab was in him all along. Alcohol just opened the gates.
Definitely true. Had Vazquez not been inebriated, he would have thought Sukhvir Singh was an “Iraqi terrorist,” but wouldn’t have attacked him. There must be countless people who, dare I say, think like Vazquez, but thankfully don’t act on it. Hopefully we can turn the tide and correct these horribly incorrect assumptions.
Anyway, the article ends with Sukhvir Singh forgiving Vazquez and asking that Vazquez’s life not be ruined. Perhaps some of Vazquez’s community service will include promoting awareness on behalf of the Sikh community?
This reminds me of a case several years ago when a friend of mine, Gurpreet Singh, was attacked on a train in New York. His attacker was also convicted of a hate crime, and Gurpreet asked that he be required to serve food in the local Sikh temple as part of his community service.
The other day I received a powerful email from the Sikh Coalition. They might have hired a professional marketing firm to write the text, because it really caught my attention. It references several Internet comments on Sikh stories in the recent media:
“THERE IS NO DISCUSSION REQUIRED HERE. TAKE THE TOWEL OFF… OUR COUNTRY, OUR RULES.”
Reader comment on Newsday discussion board, August 29, 2007
“Why doesn’t he just sit down and shut up. Doesn’t he know he’s from the middle east. a-hole.”
Comment board, Hoboken 411, February 11, 2008.
“When traveling, can TSA make RAG-HEADS remove their rag like all travelers must remove their shoes?”
Viewer Comments, on LiveLeak.com, February 8, 2008
“They still let these people [Sikhs] on planes? Amazing.”
Reader comment on Newsday discussion board, August 29, 2007
These are just four comments. It’s a safe assumption that there are at least 1,000 people for each comment that viewed the news story in question, thought something similar, but just didn’t bother to leave a comment.
At the same time, there are many more people who thought, “wait, he’s a Sikh, what’s that?” And realized who Sikhs are, and the ideals we stand for. If you surf the comments, there are positive ones too, so there are people in this world that are beyond the ignorance that motivates so many.
We need to support organizations like the Sikh Coalition, SALDEF and others that are teams of mostly volunteers working to create some basic awareness. I’ve included the full Sikh Coalition email. They’re doing something cool — if you donate $100 this month they will send you a keychain and 10 glossy “The Sikhs” brochures to distribute to your neighbors.
A woman was arrested early this morning and charged with trying to rip the turban off a Sikh man’s head in a Washington Street bar, police said.
“I went to the bar to place an order, and I realized that someone was trying to get my turban off my head,” said 38-year-old Hansdip Singh Bindra, of Union City, who was at Madison Bar and Grill with a colleague just after midnight. “You’re out for an evening with colleagues and this is the last thing you’d expect.”
Also see: Turban Makes News in Hoboken, and a press release by the Sikh Coalition.
Having grown up in New Jersey I’ve never experienced anything like this, but I’m glad Hansdip called the police, who were quick to respond and did take appropriate action.
Thanks Kim Holcomb and King5 for putting together this excellent report.
See the video here: Sikh community rallies around attacked cab driver
Shout out to the UW Sikhs for forwarding this link. And they humbly write:
Now let us do ardaas to Sri Vahaguru Ji to ensure the quick recovery of Sukhvir Singh. Let us also pray for the assailant in this case, 20 year old Luis Vasquez, for that is the Sikh way; we are for “Sarbat da Bhala,” the good of all mankind.
Also, Sujot forwarded the following photo, snapped by Heather Kaur.