Friday 21 October 2016

Sikh Rights Group Asks NY Mayor to Address Hate Crime Issues

Yoshita Singh New York

In the wake of two alleged hate crimes against Sikhs here, a civil rights group has appealed to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to urgently address the issue of discrimination against the minority community.

The Sikh Coalition has written to de Blasio seeking to meet him "to address hate crimes and discrimination against Sikhs" in the city.

The group approached the city administration following two attacks in as many weeks against Sikhs in the city.

Earlier this month, 29-year old Sandeep Singh was brutally injured when he was hit and dragged nearly 30 feet on a public street in Queens by a pick-up truck following an argument with the truck's driver who called him a "terrorist" who should "go back to your country".

Last week, another Sikh man, identified in a report by Huffington Post as Jaspreet Singh Batra and his mother were attacked by a group of teenagers who called him "Osama Bin Laden".

Batra, a physician scientist, was confronted by about 10 teenagers who used derogatory language against his mother and made fun of her facial hair.

The Sikh community of Queens sought to draw public attention to the hate crime issue and motivate the New York Police Department (NYPD) to focus more resources in making arrests and preventing similar crimes from happening.

"Based on community feedback, we believe that the NYPD must be more proactive about its community engagement work," the Sikh Coalition said in the letter to de Blasio.

It said there is a "perception" among local Sikhs that the NYPD could have deployed the Hate Crime Task Force immediately after the attack on Singh.

Problems of hate crime and discrimination against the Sikhs are "compounded by the fact that the NYPD actively discriminates against turbaned Sikhs who wish to serve as law enforcement officers," the group said.

It said while turbaned Sikhs serve as police officers in Canada, India, and the United Kingdom, they are not permitted to serve in the police department in New York City.

"This makes no sense from a community policing perspective and is contrary to the New York City Human Rights Law as well as federal civil rights law," the group said.

The group urged the Mayor to act upon his promise of ensuring that everyone's rights are respected in the city and police and community stand together to confront violence.

In an interview to the Huffington Post, Batra said he hopes justice will be delivered.

He said there should be a mandatory diversity education programme in schools and colleges that teaches young people about the value of all faiths and ethnicities.

"I think there should be a school programme where a diversity education course is mandated to make sure all youngsters attend because that's the age you start making opinions," Batra said.

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