Sikh men gunned down in possible hate crime in Sacramento

The Sacramento Bee is reporting that two elderly Sikh men were shot while going on an afternoon walk in their suburban neighborhood on Friday. One of the men, 67-year-old Surinder Singh died from the attack on Friday, and 78-year-old Gurmej Atwal is in critical condition, suffering from two gunshot wounds in his chest. The Bee article states:

Relatives and friends in the tightknit Sikh community to which the two men belong were not as hesitant to call the shooting a hate crime.

Singh and Atwal, like many Sikh men, had thick beards and wore turbans traditions that have made Sikhs the target of bigotry and violent attacks since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“The turban is a big problem for us,” said Gurjatinder Singh Randhawa, chief editor of the Sikh newspaper Punjab Mail USA. “We look the same as Afghan Taliban but we are not Taliban.”

Randhawa recalled the beating of a Sikh cab driver four months ago in West Sacramento.

The driver told authorities that two passengers had uttered anti-Islamic slurs as they attacked him and then beat a female passenger who tried to stop them. Police have since arrested two men on charges of felony assault with a deadly weapon and commission of a hate crime in connection with the attack.

While we don’t know why this happened, it’s hard to imagine that this could have been anything but an attack motivated by racism and hatred. Just a few days after the horrific display of anti-Muslim bigotry in Southern California that Navdeep posted on, we have Sikh lives being lost to senseless violence….yet again. Our thoughts and prayers are with Singh and Atwal and their families. May Waheguru give them and the Sacramento sangat the strength to remain in the chardi kala spirit in the face of this hateful violence.
UPDATE (from SALDEF): “The Sikh community of Stockton, Yuba City, and Sacramento and SALDEF are offering a $10,000 reward for information on the crime. Additionally. the Elk Grove Police Department has issued a $1000 reward and the Sacramento Valley chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SV) today offered a $5,000 reward for information related to the attacks.” SALDEF and others are holding be a press conference Monday morning at 10am at the Sikh Temple Sacramento reacting to the shooting.

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36 Responses to “Sikh men gunned down in possible hate crime in Sacramento”

  1. Sundari says:

    The Sikh community of Stockton, Yuba City, and Sacramento and SALDEF are offering a $10,000 reward for information on the crime. Additionally. the Elk Grove Police Department has issued a $1000 reward and the Sacramento Valley chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SV) today offered a $5,000 reward for information related to the attacks. [via SALDEF]

    Please note that the "Council on American-Islamic Relation" is contributing to reward efforts. I was shocked by many of the comments left by Sikhs on the previous post by Navdeep. We, as Sikhs, don't pick and choose who we would like to stand up for. Sikhi teaches us to stand up against all displays of hate towards ANY group. Please don't misconstrue those teachings.

  2. Gur Sewak says:

    What are the SIKHS going to do about these kind of tragedies? I think its time to step up to the plate.

  3. Navdeep Singh Dhillon says:

    This is really sad. And I wholeheartedly agree with Sundari regarding the underlying teachings of Sikhi. I was equally taken aback by some of the comments to my blog post. The fact that Sikhism flourished during the ruthless regime of the Mughals and yet did not succumb to blaming the religion that the Mughals allegedly practiced, is a testament to the spirit of Sikhism: to always strive to take the higher moral ground.

    Two human lives have been lost and what makes this so sad is that their lives were taken based on ignorance, xenophobia, misinformation, and ultimately hate.

    The rewards are a great gesture, especially from the Muslim communities, but even if the perpetrators are caught and punished adequately, it will obviously not bring back the lives of these two people. And it certainly won't stop it from happening again. So the real question that not just the Sikh community needs to answer is a variation of what Gur Sewak asked above: What are we collectively going to do?

  4. BIk says:

    This is really sad and if it turns out that these Sikhs were mistaken for Muslims then so-called Sikh activists like the ones we have on here should be hanging their heads in shame. They have managed to associate the Sikh identity to Muslim causes such as Palestine, anti-Burka ban campaign and so-called anti-islamophobia that any work on the mistaken identity issue has been undermined. Well done all you liberal idiots who display their Sikh identity so proudly and become useful idiots for the Muslim cause. When will the so-called Sikh activists learn, they have committed massive own goals such as getting the Kirpan banned from the Quebec assembly when turning up to support the Burka! Isn't there Sikh issues that can take up their time that they need to go around supporting the veil when our own religion does not support veiling!

  5. Sonia says:

    Wow. I've never heard such hateful things from a Sikh before. I am truly aghast that instead of trying to unite in a time like this, you are trying to divide in a way that is so unSikh it makes me cringe. As despicable as this behavior is I truly hope you don't really think this way and are just seeking attention or trying to get a rise out of people. At a time when two people are dead. You should be ashamed of yourself but I know you will not be. I also know you will write a follow up using the word "idiot" some more and elaborating on how evil Muslims are as if this kind of rhetoric is new and profound.

  6. BIk says:

    In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
    George Orwell

    All the liberals on this site are so screwed up that they fail to see that having Sikhs marching with Muslims when the host community have now understand how dangerous Islam is, is a foolish act and puts Sikhs in danger.

    So yes I do blame these fools for what has happened because instead of showing Sikhi to be an independent religion with no link with Islam, they have been associating Sikhi with Islam so much so that one fool called Brooklynwala even questioned the rehat ban on eating Halal meat because it creates divisions!

  7. Amarpal says:

    I'm going to stop reading the langar hall. I'm all for free speech but you guys really need to moderate! It seems these two guys BLK and Harinder are constantly hijacking the conversation and don't add anything to the conversation. This is why people like me don't generally make comments. We don't want to be drawn into this hate filled name calling "conversation" where these two guys pull all the strings. This post is no longer about the two Sikhs who died. It is about the comments these two guys made. Does it strike anyone else as odd that the views from these two guys sound almost identical?

  8. BIk says:

    Stop reading, you won't be missed. If you want a blog that just allows restricts posts to only those that agree with your viewpoint then you need to get off the net because you will not be able to handle the freedoms that the net allows. You are a typical liberal fascist who can't bear an alternative viewpoint to your own.

    FYI I am not the same person as Harinder because that seems to be what you were getting at. What your tiny liberal mind can't comprehend is that two people might have the same views which are the opposite to your own! I dread to think that one day a kid like you will have to live in the real world!

  9. brooklynwala says:

    Here's a great piece in the Washington Post today by the Sikh Coalition's Rajdeep Singh:

    "Many in the Sikh American community are wondering whether these men were targeted because of their turbans, the religious signifiers of Sikh identity. Although the overwhelming majority of Americans who wear turbans are Sikhs, many (if not most) Americans are ignorant about this elementary fact, and are ignorantly prone to associate Sikhs with a handful of turban-clad criminals, who live in faraway lands and call themselves Muslim–the way some members of the Ku Klux Klan call themselves Christian."

  10. Tajinder says:

    Elk Grove police release details of suspect vehicle in shooting of Sikh men

    Witnesses questioned by detectives described seeing a tan or light brown 1999 to 2003 Ford F-150 pickup-truck.

    Surinder Singh, 65, and long time walking partner Gurmej Atwal, 78, were gunned down in a drive-by shooting Friday while strolling through their neighborhood. Singh was pronounced dead at the scene. Atwal remains in critical condition.

    Police urge anyone with information about the truck or the shooting to call (916) 714-5115.

  11. Tajinder says:

    I read the posts above, not to interesting just nagging.. sorry but grow up you people I am sure have college degrees, we have Sikh youth in High schools and Jr highs reading these posts.

    In this situation we need to come together as adults not bicker or over little things.

    Here's my two cents. Sikh community is over all reactive not active in these type of situations. We have human/civil rights groups and this is great we also have Sikh awareness this is also great. These though are very slow moving processes which will help future generations of Sikh Americans, but the immediate, will face such incidents as these. Sikhs need to become active and not just take reactive actions. Ok the killing has occurred now what? We need to thoroughly follow this investigation and if it is a hate crime we need to have our own organizations which can back track to which "Hate groups" this individual or individuals was connected to, and keep record as well as keep up to date on their activities. At our local gurudwaras make our elders aware of the environment they live in (don’t got all day to type out the details hope you get the point). We have to face the fact Sikh awareness is only good for people who are willing to become aware, not someone who does not care. Most of these groups, don't preach anti-islam, anti-jew, anti-catholic, anti-sikh etc, they generally don't divide you into groups just lump you up in "them". So certain measures have to be taken in order to prevent actions from these types of people against our (and other communities). We can no longer just accept this it is not a petty crime it is absolutely infringing on some ones human rights. Think outside the box, what good is Khalsa if it cant even help its own brother hood when its human rights are infringed upon.

    Also BLK,
    I absolutely understand your point, but under Bandha Singh Buhadure Khalsa use to not only enlist Sikhs but also non-Sikhs, because the fight was for Human Rights.

  12. Navdeep Singh Dhillon says:

    Excellent response, Tajinder and thank you for bringing the discussion back to its rightful place. I am looking forward to hearing further conversation on the "now what?" aspect of this tragic loss of life.

  13. BIk says:


    With regard to Banda Singh Bahadur, his struggle was against the Mughal state which was imposing Sharia law. The same Sharia law which organisations like ICNA espouse.

  14. Tajinder says:

    Blk are you in Sac area? if so you want to help me move this forward? If yes lets talk.

  15. brooklynwala says:

    Two men were just convicted of the November 2010 hate crime on a Sacramento Sikh cab driver:

  16. TheKidsBeIgnant says:

    Yeah!!! I can only imagine if Baba Deep Singh and Banda Singh Bahadur were around they would be first in line to pick up their candles for the vigil, they would petition the oh so moral us government for help and they would give interviews and tell the world that “The turban is a big problem for us,"…..and of course I'm sure for every life lost on account of displaying religious fidelity they would get weepy eyed at talk of how great a tragedy it was. We truly are the descendants of these men….great job kids

    on a less serious not, the realm and mindset of chardi kala does not allow us to be sad, or feel self-pity or anger….what happened was life, Guru Granth Sahib teaches us both the quality in people but also their depravity…death is part of life, to mourn is an act of fear or selfishness…this sikh is surely in sach kand, so what could be better than that? so whats to mourn?

    And this shooter should not receive our anger or loathing, but our pity for living a life of ignorance a life without gian….I mean even Jesus said forgive them lord for they know not what they do

  17. Harinder says:

    Let us anlayse Two events seperated by time and space but united by a community .

    The observer is the same in these two events "Times of India".

    1 ) Taliban kill 2 Sikhs, send heads to Pak gurdwara :– 22 Feb 2010 : Afghanistan

    2) FBI joins probe into shooting of Sikhs in US :–

    What do you think is common in the two events beside the obvous that SIkhs were involved. .

  18. brooklynwala says:

    There will be a vigil in Elk Grove this Friday 3/11 demanding justice. Here are the details:

  19. […] was something that we all agreed were the basic foundation blocks for Sikhism. The next day, a hate crime took place in Sacramento where two elderly Sikh men were shot. It was absolutely tragic and incredibly sad, but some commenters believed that it was the result of […]

  20. brooklynwala says:

    the second man who was shot, gurmej singh atwal, died on friday. tragic.

  21. […] 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 […]

  22. […] continues to grieve the losses of hate crime victims Surinder Singh and Gurmej Singh Atwal who were gunned down earlier this Spring (with no suspects still), the Sacramento Sikh Temple has truly embodied the Sikh spirit of sarbat da […]

  23. […] was only a year and a half ago that two elderly Sikh men, while on their routine daily walk, were murdered on a suburban street in Sacramento, California in broad daylight. No discernible motive has officially been declared but it is also generally […]

  24. […] was only a year and a half ago that two elderly Sikh men, while on their routine daily walk, were murdered on a suburban street in Sacramento, California in broad daylight. No discernible motive has officially been declared but it is also generally […]