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Two Sikhs attacked in US, one dead

Washington: Two elderly Sikhs were shot at by unidentified assailants in Sacramento in US, leaving one dead and the other in critical condition, triggering panic in the neighbourhood having a sizeable Sikh population.

Surinder Singh, 68, and Gurmej Atwal, 78, residents of Elk Grove in Sacramento, California– were shot at by unidentified miscreants on Friday evening, when the two went out for their daily evening walk, police said.

Singh, who worked as a truck driver in India and Libya before moving to the US, five years ago, died on the spot.

He is originally from Pandori Ganga Singh village in Hoshiarpur District of Punjab. His funeral has been scheduled for March 12.

Atwal, hailing from Farallah village in Nawanshahr district of Punjab, who moved to the US in 2001, continues to be in critical condition.

Police have not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime, but there is no such concrete evidence as yet.

"At present, we have no evidence to indicate there was a hate or bias motivation for this crime; however, the obvious Sikh appearance of the men, including the traditional Dastar headwear and lack of any other apparent motive, increasingly raise that possibility," Elk Grove Police Chief Robert M Lehner said.

Elk Grove Police has made preliminary notification to the local FBI office because bias motivated crimes are a violation of Federal as well as State Law, Lehner said.

A number of Sikhs living in the city, are in a state of panic and have alleged this to be hate crime.

No arrests have been made so far.

More than a dozen odd local Gurudrawas at a meeting yesterday announced an award of USD 20,000 to anyone who provides a clue towards the arrest of those responsible for the incident.

They have also appealed to the Sikh community members to try and not wear traditional ethnic `kurta` and `payjama` while going for walks or any public appearance, said Gurjatinder Singh Randhawa, chief editor of the regional Sikh newspaper Punjab mail USA.

Both Singh and Atwal were in their traditional Sikh dress during their evening walk when they were shot at.

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