NY police deny hate fueled attack on Sikh man, but community is worried

Ritu Jha-

An elderly Sikh man visiting New York from Canada to join the upcoming annual Sikh Day parade was attacked and left with a fractured nose Sunday, April 3.

Community organizations have called it a hate crime, but police said the case is being investigated as one of assault.

Nirmal Singh, 70, was two blocks away from the Sikh Cultural Society, Richmond Hill, gurdwara, where he is staying when he was attacked by an unidentified person who came up to him from behind.

A New York Police Department spokesperson told indica on the phone that the incident took place at about 6:45 am. “The 70-year-old man was approached by an unknown person and punched in the nose which caused him to fall to the ground,” the spokesperson said.

No statement was made immediately and the man proceeded by private means to the Jamaica Hospital Medical Center. The NYPD received the 911 call at 3:50 pm the same day.

“There is nothing there that’s leading us to believe this is a hate crime,” the spokesperson said. “However, the hate-crime task force is investigating to see if it reaches that level.”

No arrest has been made yet. Detectives are checking local CCTV footage. “He got a minor cut to his face (near the nose),” the spokesperson said.

The area of New York where the incident occurred has a substantial Sikh population. The incident occurred at Lefferts Boulevard and 95th Avenue, in South Richmond Hill.

Japneet Singh, a community advocate, told indica that Nirmal Singh was visiting from Canada to attend the Apr 23 parade hosted by the Sikh Cultural Society of Richmond Hill.

He said Nirmal Singh was just taking a morning walk and was two blocks away from the gurdwara. “We feel sad,” he said. “He came to the U.S. for the first time and within two weeks this happened. He is weaker and has lost some blood and his nose is broken and he has a black eye. He has suffered a head injury as well.”

Asked whether Nirmal Singh caught a glimpse of his attacker, Japneet said, “Uncle just felt the impact once and fell to the ground and doesn’t remember much, but it seems to us, seeing how badly he was bleeding and the injury, that the attacker may have used some tool.

“This makes us wonder if it is safe anymore in New York for our elders to walk down the block without having to look over their shoulder.”

Highlighting rising hate crimes, Japneet, who unsuccessfully ran for New York City Council District 28 in 2021, and is one of the New York Senate candidates in November, said, “The reason I am running for office is because of things like this… to make [government] understand our needs and concerns.”

He said anti-Asian hate is growing but as long as the community sticks together and understands that “we are our brothers and sisters’ keepers and promote unity, we can do good for the world”.

He said advocacy groups get involved in such issues after the event, “but I think they have to work and think what we can do to be proactive and what we can do that these incidents do not happen.”

In 2020, the FBI reported that 61.9 percent of victims of hate crimes were targeted because of race, ethnicity or ancestry and 13.4 percent were targeted because of religious bias.

Last year saw a 6.1 percent increase in hate crime reports. The FBI data gathered on anti-Sikh bias crimes shows that hate crimes against Sikhs have increased by 44.9 percent since 2019. For example, the 2019 Hate Crime Statistics include 56 reported anti-Sikh offenses. In the 2020 data, the number of such offenses jumped to 72.