Sikh Man Recently Killed In Arizona: Occupational Struggles Faced By Panjabi Sikh Immigrants

From 7-Elevens to liquor and 99 cents stores, many Panjabi Sikh immigrants build a life for themselves as store workers. Working at these locations gives them a start in America, while engaging with its harsh realities. Regardless of educational background or the pind/shari divide, Panjabi Sikh immigrants work long hours into the night seven days of week trying to build a stable economic future for them and their families. On August 04, 2008, Inderjit Singh Jassal at the age of 62, was one of these Panjabi Sikh immigrants, who was murdered at a 7-11 store during his usual 13-hour shift in Phoenix, Arizona. Jassal had moved to the US nearly 20 years ago, while his wife and two adult children remained in India.

SALDEF reports that:

Mr. Jassal was working at a 7-11 store in West Phoenix when a black male, later identified as 27 year-old Jermaine Canada, walked in with his two children, aged 2 and 6. According to the surveillance video, the two individuals had a short conversation, at the end of which Mr. Canada pulled a concealed firearm from his shirt and fatally shot Mr. Jassal.

The most ironic aspect of this case is that no motive as been found. According to surveillance video there was no angry exchange between Jassal and Canada and nothing was stolen by the murderer.

SALDEF believes that this killing was nothing other than a heinous crime motivated by hate.

According to one of Canadas relatives, he had a history of drug abuse and mental illness. At the time of the killing, he was under supervised release following 2 years in prison for violating his probation, for a prior dug conviction, with a weapons charge.

Currently, Tajinder Singh Jassal, a nephew of Inderjit Singh Jassal and co-worker, is working to get immigration visas for Inderjits wife and children. He is considering sending an appeal letter to Arizona Senator John McCains Office for assistance with the visas because “The family is suffering right now. They want to see their father’s face.”

We know that all immigrants face struggles in America regardless of occupational background. You may be a Panjabi Sikh doctor or taxi-cab driver, but at the end of the day its difficult for all of us because of language issues, accents, and physical appearance. However, if we look at this struggle with the additional layer of who is more likely to die at their job, its those working at liquor/convenient stores, gas-stations, and taxi-cab drivers. Its a difference in the nature of work; we know Panjabi Sikh doctors and store-owners will set-up shop where no one else will go. Thats the beauty of the immigrant spirit. However, as a community we need to realize that some of us risk our lives more in this struggle, as Inderjit Singh Jassal did. With this recognition we can be more strategic in how we organize and inform our community about occupational risks and hazards associated with cultural and religious identity.

Recently, a friend said that keshdari taxi-cab drivers and store-workers face more of a risk in losing their lives from post-911 hate crimes than doctors and IT professionals, but those who are most vocal at letting their cases known are professionals. Thus, we need to be more strategic in how we educate our community about hate crimes. How you relay information to a doctor is different than how you relate the same information to a store-worker. The information has to make sense in their occupational contexts. Is this approach currently being used by Sikh civil-rights organizations? What does everyone think?


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11 Responses to “Sikh Man Recently Killed In Arizona: Occupational Struggles Faced By Panjabi Sikh Immigrants”

  1. Mewa Singh says:

    Phulkari,

    Are you suggesting that immigrants that open up liquor stores/convenience stores in poor neighborhoods don't understand the occupational hazards and risks?

  2. Camille says:

    Mewa, I believe Phulkari is speaking to the higher risks of violence among particular professions, including those that are traditionally considered to be "blue-collar" jobs. Are you suggesting that working in a poor neighborhood implies greater violence and that choosing to work in such a place makes you liable or complicit in any harm you may face?

  3. Mewa Singh says:

    Phulkari,

    Are you suggesting that immigrants that open up liquor stores/convenience stores in poor neighborhoods don’t understand the occupational hazards and risks?

  4. Mewa Singh says:

    Camille,

    With regards to your 2 separate questions:

    Do I believe that there are greater incidences of violence in liquor store/convenience stores, located in poorer communities? Yes

    Do I believe that choosing such a location makes you liable or complicit? No. Crime is still crime.

  5. Camille says:

    Mewa, I believe Phulkari is speaking to the higher risks of violence among particular professions, including those that are traditionally considered to be “blue-collar” jobs. Are you suggesting that working in a poor neighborhood implies greater violence and that choosing to work in such a place makes you liable or complicit in any harm you may face?

  6. Mewa Singh says:

    Camille,

    With regards to your 2 separate questions:

    Do I believe that there are greater incidences of violence in liquor store/convenience stores, located in poorer communities? Yes

    Do I believe that choosing such a location makes you liable or complicit? No. Crime is still crime.

  7. Phulkari says:

    Mewa Singh,

    No, that is not what I am saying.

    Camille,

    Yes, that is what I am writing about and if a concerted effort is being made to organize these workers about their rights and resources around hate crimes! :)

    Is information being made relevant to their working contexts? I see good work being done by these Sikh organizations after the hate crime has happened, but what is being done before that?

  8. Phulkari says:

    Mewa Singh,
    No, that is not what I am saying.

    Camille,
    Yes, that is what I am writing about and if a concerted effort is being made to organize these workers about their rights and resources around hate crimes! :)
    Is information being made relevant to their working contexts? I see good work being done by these Sikh organizations after the hate crime has happened, but what is being done before that?

  9. […] are particularly susceptible to the insults and dangerous actions of others. Phulkari’s post is another reminder of this unfortunate […]

  10. A lot of people have to go in other countries to earn money and to get job. People from Pakistan and India also go in other countries and recently a sikh from India died in Arizona which is sad news and it can be cause of many clashes. Other details of this sad accidents are here in this blog which we must read to know about his death.

  11. typeressay says:

    This is a really sad news that the people are facing these type of problems in their life. I am very upset and determined to solve all of these problems so they can make their life peaceful and good.