Baljit Singh Sidhu, a Sikh man who was choked and brutally attacked in Richmond, California, in the early morning of Sun., Dec. 15, told indica fear has gripped his family after the incident that left him bleeding and bruised.
“When people drive home after work and reach their neighborhood, they feel they have reached home, but it seems bad people could come to nice places, too,” Sidhu told indica in a low tone.
Sidhu was attacked at 4 a.m. on Sunday in front of his apartment complex, “It was clear this man had some other intention,” Sidhu said.
Sidhu said that his attacker approached him three times and offered him money, but he did not take it, and the man repeatedly hit him.
When asked why he believes it was a hate crime, Sidhu, who has a beard and wears a turban worn by people of the Sikh faith, said that three years ago he was robbed at gun point in Oakland. The assailant wanted money, and it was a hit and run.
Sidhu has been working part time at the US Postal Service for the past 10 years and has been driving a cab since 2010.
Recently, Sikhs have commonly become victims of mistaken identity.
He said the Sunday’s attacker, wearing a hoodie, first approached him and asked for a cigarette.
“He wanted to reach me,” said Sidhu. He added that the man looked OK the first time, but the second time when he approached Sidhu the attacker looked suspicious.
First, he came and asked for a cigarette lighter. The second time he came back and said he had $5 and needed a ride to a Park and Ride in San Francisco.
Sidhu said he told the attacker he was off duty and couldn’t give him a ride. It took Sidhu a minute to park, and again the assailant approached, for the third time.
“I was about to get out of the cab, and I was half in and half out [when] he came back, he held the door and was holding the top coverage of a barbecue lid and started hitting me,” Sidhu said recalling what happened on the morning of the attack.
“My turban saved me,” he said, thanking his turban.
“The turban fell on the ground while I was trying to save myself. There was blood all over,” he said. “I am so scared, and not just me, I am worried about my two daughters who go to college and they come back [in the] evening.”
“I am really worried,” said Sidhu, who migrated to the US in 2005 from Patiala in Punjab India.
“Everyone wants to come to the US thinking of living a better life. But it’s not easy. I have to work hard, and at present [I’m] not driving. My elder daughter is married and lives with us and is studying dental at UCSF.”
“The fear is you are not safe, not even in your neighborhood. I don’t know him and had never seen him,” said Sidhu. He thanked the security guard at the Hilltop Mall who came to help, causing the attacker to run off.
“I would have been dead. The assailant tried to choke me from back and kill me,” he said.
Sidhu said he succeeded in grabbing his attacker’s hoodie. “We have submitted the hoodie and the [barbecue] lid to the officer. I hope they would use sniffer dogs to find him. I was a little suspicious the way he kept coming to my cab.”
United Sikhs, a nonprofit advocacy group, has asked the FBI and the Civil Rights Division of US Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., to coordinate with the local authorities and intervene in this matter, said Megan Daly, director of public policy and communications at United Sikhs, who is working on the case.
“Attacks on Sikhs is nothing new,” Daly said. “They have been victims of mistaken identity.”
The FBI last month released a hate-crime report which shows anti-Sikh hate crimes in the United States increased 200 percent from 2017 to 2018.
Richmond police told indica on Thursday that no arrest has been made yet. The case is not yet considered as hate-crime incident.