RIP Gurmej Singh Atwal

While Sikhs around the world were celebrating Vaisakhi last week, 78-year-old Gurmej Singh Atwal, one of the two men who were shot in what was likely a hate attack in Elk Grove, California in March, died on Friday. The Sacramento Bee reports:

“He’s no more,” his son said. “First the kidneys went off, then the lungs and then brain. … He was shot in the upper right chest, one bullet went straight to his lungs and the other to his pancreas, liver and intestines.”

A grief-stricken Atwal said, “My dad was going to be a key witness” in the shooting. Also shot was Surinder Singh, 65, who died at the scene.

This tragic loss came two days after California’s “Sikh Solidarity Day,” initiated by State Senator Darrell Steinberg and California Sikhs to raise awareness about the Sikh identity in light of the horrific March 4th attack on Atwal and Singh in Elk Grove.

“Let us pick a day together when we are all Sikh Americans, we are all Californians and we all stand together,” state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said before several hundred members of the Sikh Temple of Sacramento in West Sacramento.

“Any attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” the Sacramento Democrat said. He suggested that on a chosen day which was quickly decided as April 13 civic leaders and community members could wear either a man’s turban or a woman’s Punjabi suit with chunni, or headwear, as a symbol of support.

No arrests of suspects have been made thus far. The reward offered by the police department and Sikh and Muslim community groups for information leading to arrests is now $43,000.

Mourning the loss of Gurmej Singh Atwal and Surinder Singh (who died immediately after the shooting), we hope and pray for a day when the Sikh identity will no longer be under attack, when we can walk down the street with our dastars without fear.

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15 Responses to “RIP Gurmej Singh Atwal”

  1. In sympathising with the bereaving families and in view of the heinous crime committed at Elk Grove, it is a very apt. post by Brooklynwala. Emphasis on hoping and praying however, is not going to cut it. Important as it is, neither such solidarity arranged days, nor lobbying for a Senate session to begin with a onetime Sikh Ardaas will suffice in creating the needed awareness. Speeches by other community leaders on arranged occasions past such tragedies, assuring show of support and standing aside the turbaned Sikhs or any other impacted minority group for that matter, can only help thus far. The real culprit in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious, evolving society such as ours in the U.S is ignorance, ignorance and ignorance; which is mostly due to the total lack or poor understanding of the US Constitution, especially: First Amendment-Religion and Expression.

  2. The real solution lies in Education, Education and Education. And that starts at the Elementary education in schools and goes onwards upto and including work places, where it all begins and ends. While the perpetrators for this abhorable crime must be hunted down at all cost by the security, the educationists involved in curricullum planning must take a lead in putting up a united front. The sooner the better!

  3. Tajinder says:

    "The real solution lies in Education, Education and Education" — Apparently Guru Gobind Singh did not know about this concept and started his own army. When are we going to realize there are just elements in society regardless if it is the US or other nations (India) some people who push agendas which result in these types of incidents regardless if it is gang related or a hate crime, cannot be and are unwilling to be educated or become aware, rather have to be dealt-with head on. Sikhs have to revert their thinking back 50+ years in order to be able to take preventative measures in the future for these types of incidents and other ones. We have forgotten it is our duty to confront and eliminate, these types of evils regardless if it comes in the form of gang initiation and or a hate crime. We have become confused with the adaption of liberal/hippies adapting to Sikhism as if it was a Yoga based class at Cal institution of some type. We have turned our right to bear arms by our Gurus in to right to bear symbols. Unless we revert back 50+ years in our thinking we will not get anywhere other than where to Jews got in Germany, step one they became integrated into their social system, step two they forgot they were Jews step 3 German population still remembered they were Jew and you know what happened from there.

  4. harinder says:

    Jews are Jews and Sikhs are Sikhs.
    Relations between Jews and Christians is a one of distrust due to theological history.
    I have Christens Indian friends who have never met a Jew but still distrust them.
    Don’t extrapolate Germany events on USA.
    No one in Germany supported Jews except
    "Oskar Schindler".
    He was credited with saving almost 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust .
    You American Sikh have tremendous "GOOD WILL" amongst American People .
    Don’t waste it.

    My advice to u American Sikhs is
    1.'GOOD WILL" is a precious commodity, nurture it.
    2.Don’t Get Provoked.
    3.Love your Nation by participating in all its activities including the nations WAR.
    You have not been entrusted with the task of Justifying Nations war. The reasons why Empires fight war is very different from the tradition why your ancestor use to fight wars in Punjab. You are now warriors of the “EMPIRE”.

  5. […] a tragic incident takes place that shakes the Sikh community, we have a tendency to start campaigns to combat […]

  6. Tajinder says:

    I disagree with most of you, please re-read my post I am not calling for violence of any type
    “Head on”, this will benefit not only Sikhs but also American society as a whole. What I am seeing here is the PC mentality reaction from people who have been desensitized to what is life and want to practice ‘Sikhism-light’. Right to bear arms is not necessary of course when you live in UK where the police hold sticks, but when you live in a country where 2/3 of the population have 3+ guns in house holds, and you are in the position of mistaken identity and refuse to bear arms even though it is your religious and national right, this is insane.
    Of course the right to bear arms would not have helped the two men, but it would of have had made a lot of difference today if in the 80s the Sikh population in America when most of the growth took place had adapted the concept of the 2nd amendment right and shown their faces at the local shooting ranges etc. and had been part of local gun clubs, hunting clubs etc. Not only would they have kept their Sikh traditions of the right to bear arms but also made people aware of who they are at a social level which has potential of violence towards anyone who might appear to be a threat. Yes we have made progress in media coverage, churches, interfaith groups etc. Yes this will help to some extent, but it is not Glen Beck gunning you down, or the liberal interfaith group members, or the politicians (who swing where the vote is) it is people who you just can’t make aware because to them your not a Muslim, Mexican, Armenian etc. You are just different. Before it was Catholics then Blacks/Jews then Mexicans and now Arab people are popular and we just happen to look like some. These peoples (hate groups) thinking is not that much different than Shive Sena etc. in India. To be Sikhs and be blind to these groups in America who are really the enemy of this great countries foundation of equal rights and freedoms and continue to live by just ignoring them, after they have done so much damage to so many lives historically is just pathetic.

    Sikhs 50+ years back is not something I can comment on best as my life span is a lot less than that, and books written on this subject are few and poor. Talk to your grand parents to get the real in site into what they see as different from today and then. I am confident those Sikhs would have no problem understanding what I am proposing here.

  7. […] I am also worried about a possible retaliation, but not just from terrorists. From other Americans as well. My thoughts immediately returned to 9/11 and the days, months, and years afterwards. Even today, a remnant of the aftermath from ten years ago, Sikh boys are bullied and called Osama like its no big deal, the general population are still completely ignorant of the Sikh identity, hate crimes targeting Sikhs are on the rise (link). […]

  8. […] I am also worried about a possible retaliation, but not just from terrorists. From other Americans as well. My thoughts immediately returned to 9/11 and the days, months, and years afterwards. Even today, a remnant of the aftermath from ten years ago, Sikh boys are bullied and called Osama like its no big deal, the general population are still completely ignorant of the Sikh identity, hate crimes targeting Sikhs are on the rise (link). […]

  9. […] – S. Gurmej Singh Atwal and S. Surinder Singh – in Elk Grove earlier this year, shocked both the Sikh and local communities. The murderers still roam […]

  10. […] year two Sikh men, Surindur Singh and Gurmej Atwal, were gunned down in Elk Grove, California. In 2003 Dalvir Sangah, a postal carrier in West […]

  11. […] the country in the two weeks that followed. And just over a year after the elderly Sikh men Gurmej Atwal and Surinder Singh were shot and killed on their evening walk in Elk Grove, […]

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