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The deplorable episode of cold-blooded slaying of six innocent Sikhs by a white supremacist skinhead Wade Michael Page in a gurudwara in Wisconsin can’t be dismissed as a sheer paradigm of hate crime incident. Apparently, the fact that it has broached more than a few imperative questions is difficult to neglect.

While the precise motivations of this outlandish act are yet to be indentified, the reports that the killer had been a leader of a xenophobic white-power group connote it wasn’t just a random attack but one that was accurately deliberated to single out a community for its dissimilarity or rather for its misconceived proximity, in terms of corporeal peculiarity, to Islamist fundamentalists.

Unfortunately, Sikhs – one of the initial Asian communities in North America – have confronted such vandalism and dogmatism ever since 9/11 when racial bigots began to see in them a semblance to Osama Bin Laden, predominantly because of their turban and beard. In this context, no one is oblivious to the infamous case of Balbir Singh Sodhi – a gas station owner in Mesa, Arizona – who was shot dead four days after the towers crumbled, allegedly by a man who sought retaliation.

However, this is not the sole example of Sikh community being under attack in the disguise of ‘patriotism’. In a report last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center – a nonprofit civil rights organization committed to combating hate and bigotry- reported quite a few assaults and incidents of arson at Sikh temples after September 11.

This sort of killing rampage is undeniably a catastrophe, and it is so not only for six people who lost their lives or their aggrieved families or for that matter the Sikh community but also for United States as a nation which is often reckoned an impeccable specimen of juxtaposed cultures and religions – a product of large-scale immigration from various countries. It poses a question on the credibility of the country in protecting people of all races, as promised in its Constitution.

Although it might sound mordant but one of the concrete reasons for such crisis finds its roots in the laws that confer upon civilians a right to carry guns without any complications. Paradoxically, a law was passed in Wisconsin last year that gave liberty to the inhabitants to purchase a handgun or firearm with much ease. The 9 mm semi-automatic handgun found at the sight of the incident is just a metaphor of how prolific are the implications of this law. Even the rationale that probable victims need guns for their fortification sounds nothing more than ridiculous.

We can keep deriving the political insinuations of the occurrence but what needs vital attention is that the Sikh community has for a long, long time quietly endured the pain of wounds they never inflicted and it’s high time that both the United States government as well the Indian government take measures to ensure that no discrimination of any sort is met out to this community anymore.


Vatsal Verma
[email protected]