FBI joins in probe of attack on two elderly Sikhs
Washington: A troubled sikh community shocked by the shooting of their two elderly members today offered a reward of USD 30,000 for any information leading to the culprits, as the local police said they suspected it to be a hate crime and have called in the FBI to join the manhunt.
The West Sacramento Police in California said they suspect that the tradition turbans worn by the Surinder Singh, 68, and Gurmej Atwal, 78, could have become beacons for an attack on them.
"Because they sported the turbans they might have been singled out," the police said. The Elk Grove police department said that last week`s shootout would be the first targeting the sikhs in the city if it turns out to be the hate crime.
They also said FBI had been called in as it was suspected to be a hate crime.
While Singh died on the spot, Atwal is still reported to be in a critical condition and a deeply shocked community in the area have joined together to offer a reward of USD 30,000 for any information leading to the arrest of the culprits, who shot the two on March 4.
This amount is over and above the USD 5,000 reward offered by a top Islamic body, who strongly condemned the attack.
Sikh men in beards and turbans are often targeted for discrimination by bigots who mistake them for Muslims, the Council on American-Islamic Council-Sacramenton Valley`s Executive Director, Basim Elkarra said.
"The Muslim community offers its condolences and support to the Sikh community in this time of sorrow, he said.
About 100 religious leaders, including ones from the Sikh community gathered at a Gurudwara in California, announcing a rise in the award money to informants that would lead to arrest of those responsible.
Not ruling out the possibility of a hate crime, police has made no arrests so far in the case.
Investigations have revealed that the assailants used a tan or light brown 1990 to 2003 Ford F150 pickup truck for shooting at Singh and Atwal on Friday evening, when the two neighbours were on their daily evening walk on Elk Grove Sacramento, California.
The community and other organisations have offered a reward of USD 30,000 for the arrest and apprehension of the suspect, said Darshan Singh Mundy, spokesman of the Sacramento Sikh Temple, where a press conference was held yesterday.
It was attended by the Elk Grove Mayor, Steve Detrick, State lawmakers, Mariko Yamada, and Roger Dickinson; Basim Eleanora, executive director of Sacramento chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Ami Bera, the former Congressional Candidate for the 3rd District.
The Speakers expressed concern over the attacks on Sikhs in the area.
"In racial attacks, Sikh-Americans with turbans and full beards are often mistaken as Talibans. We are very disturbed by the recent violent attack in our community," Mundy said.
Gurjatinder Singh Randhawa, chief editor of the regional Sikh newspaper, Punjab Mail USA and head of the NRI Front USA, said this was the second such incident against the community in the area.
The first one was about four months ago in which Harbhajan Singh, a cab driver, was shot dead, in West Sacramento, he said, adding, the assailant has been arrested.
"We urge the Indian Ambassador to the US, Meera Shankar, to take up the matter with the US Government," he said.
Kashmir Singh, UNITED SIKHS Director from California said that the community in California was visibly shaken by the incident.
"Sikhs are targeted because of their external religious identity, which is ignorantly equated or linked to terrorism. Needless violence occurs because of a gap in knowledge about who Sikhs really are," he said.
The UNITED SIKH legal team has contacted Members of Congress, US Attorney`s Office in California, and Department of Justice regarding the incident.