Hate-crime charges framed against Sikh man for abusing Fremont resident

Ritu Jha-

Hate-crime charges have been filed against a Sikh man of Indian origin for violation of civil rights, assault, and disturbing the peace by offensive language by the Alameda County District Attorney’s office in California on August 29.

The alleged suspect, Tejinder Singh, a 37-year-old Union City resident was caught on video brutally abusing and trying to spit at Krishnan Jayaraman, who was waiting at fast food restaurant Taco Bell in Fremont, California on the evening of August 21.

Jayaraman spoke to indica about the ordeal which went on for at least eight minutes. After returning from cricket practice, Krishnan’s son wanted to eat dinner at Taco Bell. He ordered online, but when he reached the restaurant, the food was not ready and was given a wrong box. He was waiting for his food when Singh entered the restaurants and began abusing Krishnan.

“At first, he (Singh) asked whether I am in line. I replied no. He said you are a vegetarian and you don’t eat beef. I ignored him. I felt he was trying to provoke me,” Krishnan said.

He said he was shocked by Singh’s behavior. “He abused me in an aggressive tone. He said, ‘You Hindus are a disgrace. You don’t wear shoes. You drink cow urine and bathe in cow urine…’ and so on. I asked him what’s wrong with you, after which he got agitated and spat on me. I told him what you are doing is wrong and I will call the cops. I saw the restaurant staff calling the cops, so I started recording him.”

Krishnan posted the eight minutes and eighteen seconds video on YouTube. He said, “He kept abusing. He was offensive to both Hindus and Indians. I could not figure out who he was, but I realised he is Sikh when he began talking in Punjabi. He gestured at me with his fingers. I kept recording calmly. He kept yelling for more than eight minutes and showed some tattoos on his chest and said, “Fuck Indira Gandhi.”

Krishnan said he figured Singh must be a second- or third-generation Sikh American and had hatred against Hindus and Indians. “I did not argue and tried to stay calm even though he kept spitting on the floor and near me. He came very close to me and showed his hand several times.”

He said, “When Fremont police officers arrived, one of them called him (Singh) outside and another officer spoke to me. I showed him the video and the cop accompanied me to the car.”

Shockingly for Krishnan, the police did not take any action against Singh on August 21, the day of the incident. It was then that Krishnan decided to share the video on WhatsApp. Soon, the video went viral and the Hindu American Foundation began putting pressure on city officials and the district attorney’s office.

However, even the officers sent by the district attorney’s office were not supportive, Krishnan said. One of them said Singh did not hit me and therefore he has not done anything criminal. I was taken aback. I said just because he did not hit me does not mean that there was no racist incident. He spat on me.”

According to a local media report, Fremont Police Department reviewed the video recording showing a portion of the interaction between the two customers prior to police arrival. In this recorded interaction, one man can be seen and heard directing religious slurs and derogatory comments toward the person holding the camera.

“Officers contacted and again interviewed the victim in this case to obtain additional details pertaining to the incident prior to police arrival. After the investigation was complete, the case was presented to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office for review,” the report said.

Krishnan said this incident has been traumatic for his 13-year-old son. “He started wondering what went wrong, why dad did not come home on time. He is scared and doesn’t want me to stay alone. If I miss his phone call, he goes into panic mode.”

Krishnan added that the Taco Bell employees did not support him in his time of need. “I told the Taco Bell staff to not serve anyone as this man kept spitting on the floor. However, they continued their service. I understand you may not want to engage with an abusive guy, but the least they could have done is to evict him and protect other customers.”

Krishnan, a long-time Fremont resident, said he is not pleased with what Taco Bell told the investigating police officers. A police report said, “On August 21, 2022, at approximately 8:20 p.m., an employee at a fast-food restaurant located in the 40000 block of Grimmer Blvd contacted Fremont Police Department to report a disturbance between two customers. Officers immediately responded and made contact with two men who were in an active argument.”

Though Krishan welcomed the charges against Singh, he said the report is not accurate. “He (Singh) came after me and I questioned him why he came after me. This was prior to the recording.”

He added, “Taco Bell staff called the cops and told them that two customers are arguing. What did I do?”

The police press release, however, states, that after de-escalating the situation, officers separated both parties and interviewed them. One man stated that the other involved party was verbally abusing him. Officers assisted the man by walking with him to his car and seeing that he left without further contact with the second individual. While interviewing the second man, it was confirmed that a disparaging comment about a particular religion was stated during the verbal argument. At the conclusion of this incident, it was determined one male used extremely offensive and hurtful language toward the other male. Based on the information the officers had at the time, a hate crime could not be established. No physical threats were made by the second individual, and he was not arrested.”

Pushpita Prasad from CoHNA (Coalition of Hindus of North America) told indica, “The attack Krishnan faced is not a random incident. It’s one of many violent assaults we have seen against Hindu individuals, ideas and institutions, thanks to Hinduphobia nurtured in recent years. In the assault on Krishnan, we see the repetition of all the anti-Hindu tropes we see commonly in media and popular culture. This includes using cows/beef and cowpiss as ways to denigrate the faith and hurt Hindu sentiments; the mocking of vegetarianism among Hindus, which has recently been positioned as an “oppressive upper caste” practice, the stereotyping of Hindus as “dirty”, “disgusting” “ugly” and more. Scarily all these tropes were highlighted in the recent Rutgers report as well, and do remember they said such online hate usually foreshadows real life violence.”

Ramya Ramakrishnan, Community Outreach Director at Hindu American Foundation (HAF), told indica, “HAF, along with other civil rights organizations, was instrumental in the addition of the anti-Hindu hate crime category by the FBI in 2015, has worked with the Department of Justice and FBI on hate crimes and temple safety and security training for the community. In addition, it is actively involved in advocating for laws at the state and federal level to strengthen hate crime protections for all communities. This is one of many recent Hinduphobic hate incidents that have been happening all over the country.”