A Community’s Loss

I read about this story and it just broke my heart. The details are tragicin and ofthemself, however, the indication that our community somehow failed this family is even more heartbreaking.

On February 21st, 2010 – Satnam Singh was shot to death by NYC police. A few days later his mother, Balbir Kaur,lay in a hospital bed recovering from being hit with a pan repeatedly by her son who suffered from a mental illness. When the NYC police arrived at the home – Satnam who had suffered an episode of an anxiety attack – was unable to articulate the situation. The police, seeing the mother bleeding on the couch – shot Satnam several times. He later died. Balbir Kaur’s other son, Lakhvinder Singh had in fact called the police. As helay in a hospital bed preparing for treatment for a medical condition, he worried that he had not heard from his motherin some time. Their father, Bahadur Singh had recently traveled to Punjab and therefore, Balbir was alone at home with Satnam.

Balbir was the sole caretaker of her sons and husband. Satnam was suffering from a mental illness, Lakvinder was in a wheelchair after an accident, and Bahadur hadhis feetamputated due to gangrene infections. After the incident, Balbir lay in a hospital for days without a friend or family member by her side.

The local Punjabi language newspaper reports that since no one in the community knew the family, their suffering for years, including the latest episode, were unknown to anybody in Sikh circles. I somehow find it impossible to believe that the unfortunate family would never have visited any gurdwara the whole time they were there. Why did anybody not befriend them? Why was a support system not extended to them? Why was a newly migrant woman left to fend and care for her family of 3 disabled men on her own? [link]

Several comments to the story ask the very perinent question of how our community failed this family.

“An amazingly distressing tale and one I feel is a tragedy for the panth. However, mental illness and physical disability are the elephants in the room. No one wishes to discuss these issues and they are often swept under the rug.”

“There is a very large Sikh community in New York, and it is perplexing as to why the family didn’t reach out to anyone.”

“With what’s happening, with the result of hard economic conditions in the country, few people have time for one another. Families are falling apart, and so are communities. Yes, the community and the welfare organizations such as our gurdwaras need to be more concerned than ever before.”

“In our culture and in our community, we tend to put dirt under the carpet. We only want to be known as the panth of martyrs and bravehearts. We need to deal with issues such as female foeticide, dowry, drugs, mental illnesses or any other socio-economic issues as well. Look at the Jewish community. I have seen they always give preferences to their own brethren and look after each other.”

It is a truly tragic story and we have much to learn from this. What are some ways we can strengthen our support systems in our community? How can Gurdwaras play a role? How can each of us play a role?

You can contact the Malwa Brothers Organization at 1.917.502.1414 or 1.516.225.5445 to assist them with the tasks of detailed investigation and support of Balbir Kaur’s family, that they have undertaken. An attorney has been contacted to look into NYPD’s role. The investigation into the shooting will bring to light whether or not the police handled the situation poorly.

[Image above from sikhchic]


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16 Responses to “A Community’s Loss”

  1. Rajinder Singh says:

    Very tragic, sad and disturbing. The courage displayed by Balbir Kaur in supporting her family is noteworthy and heroic. NYPD need not have responded with this many bullets in this situation. Its excessive use of lethal force. They could have used other alternatives.

    Many families do not discuss their problems in the community, because instead of getting care and comfort, they are given a social scarlet letter which ends up hurting them even more.

    This incident is again a reminder of life being not easy or fair. Unless we change course, dont see how the future is going to be any different.

  2. Rajinder Singh says:

    Very tragic, sad and disturbing. The courage displayed by Balbir Kaur in supporting her family is noteworthy and heroic. NYPD need not have responded with this many bullets in this situation. Its excessive use of lethal force. They could have used other alternatives.

    Many families do not discuss their problems in the community, because instead of getting care and comfort, they are given a social scarlet letter which ends up hurting them even more.

    This incident is again a reminder of life being not easy or fair. Unless we change course, dont see how the future is going to be any different.

  3. Paramjit Singh says:

    For one thing start talking to other people,instead of being withdrawn into a nexus.Rajinder is right most of the sikh community instead of helping,do give others with mental problems a social bycott.I know for a fact that here in reno,nv there is an elderly lady which is suffering from dementia ,she defecates and tears up her clothes all the time,but her caregiver is only her daughter-in-law who herself is in her fifties and overwhelmed.the old lady;s son being aman doesnot want to take care of her and when his wife sa's something he being a punjabi sikh starts beating her.He doesnt want any
    proffessional help for his mother,so 2 sikh women are living in pure hell and misery.It is about time that sikh community woke up to these realities of life instead of being macho in gurduwaras or living in their so called golorious past.

  4. Paramjit Singh says:

    For one thing start talking to other people,instead of being withdrawn into a nexus.Rajinder is right most of the sikh community instead of helping,do give others with mental problems a social bycott.I know for a fact that here in reno,nv there is an elderly lady which is suffering from dementia ,she defecates and tears up her clothes all the time,but her caregiver is only her daughter-in-law who herself is in her fifties and overwhelmed.the old lady;s son being aman doesnot want to take care of her and when his wife sa's something he being a punjabi sikh starts beating her.He doesnt want any
    proffessional help for his mother,so 2 sikh women are living in pure hell and misery.It is about time that sikh community woke up to these realities of life instead of being macho in gurduwaras or living in their so called golorious past.

  5. suky says:

    men who beat women r cowards!

  6. suky says:

    men who beat women r cowards!

  7. Bandana Kaur says:

    The story is also reflection of divisions within the New York Sikh sangat between suburban Sikh communities and recent immigrant Sikh communities from Punjab. Currently the 'Sikh' issues that have the political impetus and financial backing are those that defend our collective identity as Sikhs.
    This is admirable, but, the issues that receive lesser financial backing are those that address the socio-economic realities of recent Punjabi immigrants. I think the organizations are doing a fabulous job to work on these issues, but it saddens to me to see how immigrant communities are largely left out of community events, conferences, and forums, and many of the social vulnerabilities of these communities remain unaddressed and absent from prevailing 'Sikh' conversations in the area.

  8. Bandana Kaur says:

    The story is also reflection of divisions within the New York Sikh sangat between suburban Sikh communities and recent immigrant Sikh communities from Punjab. Currently the 'Sikh' issues that have the political impetus and financial backing are those that defend our collective identity as Sikhs.
    This is admirable, but, the issues that receive lesser financial backing are those that address the socio-economic realities of recent Punjabi immigrants. I think the organizations are doing a fabulous job to work on these issues, but it saddens to me to see how immigrant communities are largely left out of community events, conferences, and forums, and many of the social vulnerabilities of these communities remain unaddressed and absent from prevailing 'Sikh' conversations in the area.

  9. Rajinder Singh says:

    For cards, letters of hope and encouragement, checks,etc., got the following address:

    Bahadar Singh Ji and Balbir Kaur Ji
    14 Atlas Court
    New Hyde Park,
    NY 11040.

  10. Rajinder Singh says:

    For cards, letters of hope and encouragement, checks,etc., got the following address:

    Bahadar Singh Ji and Balbir Kaur Ji
    14 Atlas Court
    New Hyde Park,
    NY 11040.