Sikh community shaken again in Richmond Hill
Woman kidnapped and robbed, yet another press conference
A 51-year-old Sikh woman was thrown in a van, rendered unconscious, and robbed of thousands of dollars of jewelry last week outside a popular place of worship in South Richmond Hill.
The attack marks the fourth incident against the local Sikh community within the past few weeks, with the latest victim hearing the words “mom” before being kidnapped and robbed just steps from a gurdwara.
Last month, a 19-year-old Brooklyn man was charged in a spree of hate attacks, and is accused of targeting three men of the Sikh community. A second man, a 20-year-old from Brooklyn, was also charged in connection in one of the attacks. If convicted, both could face 25 years to life in prison.
The latest press conference to denounce the attacks in the Southeast Queens neighborhood came from gubernatorial candidate Rep. Tom Suozzi, and later at Queens Borough Hall led by Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.
Speaking outside of the Gurdwara Sikh Temple last week, Suozzi and community leaders called for peace just steps away from where the latest attack took place.
“Not only has the Sikh community been attacked, but it has been some of our most vulnerable members,” said Tejkaren Kaur Bains, a licensed state attorney from Long Island. “They’ve been beaten up while they have come here to worship.”
The self-proclaimed “common sense” democratic candidate for Governor says it will take someone like himself to change state laws pertaining to bail reform. He also touted that he was one of the first state politicians to hire a turban-wearing Sikh to his office.
“My Sikh brothers and sisters are easily recognized because they’re wearing turbans,” Suozzi said. “The fact that people can’t feel safe in their neighborhoods is just wrong.”
Suozzi hinted at negative rhetoric that was seen in the previous presidential administration, where it “became common for people to attack each other based upon their differences,” he said. Suozzi also cited the latest mass shooting which took the lives of 10 in Buffalo, calling it a “racist massacre.”
“We have to remember the basic fundamental American principle that all men and women are created equal,” Suozzi said.
Tejinder Singh, a former attorney at The Legal Aid Society of New York, said that law enforcement and the district attorney’s office eventually listened to the community in the past when some collective noise was made.
He added that police come across people from the community and frequently don’t take them seriously, “because they don’t look like people who can communicate effectively in English,” Singh said.
“Our community has to get politically involved,” Singh pleaded.
Pressed on his “fund the police” stance, Suozzi said that elected officials are needed to enforce laws, pointing to his 15-point plan to tackle crime.
“I don’t think it’s that they don’t take it seriously,” Suozzi said. “I think it’s that we have to fund the police to make people feel safe, and that we as a community need to bring attention to those crimes that we want to see enforced.”
Japneet Singh, a democratic candidate for the 15th State Senate District, said that he hopes to soon be working towards an actual plan, rather than just keep talking about a solution.
“We’re sick and tired of press conferences,” Singh said. “However, we have seen no action. We are not doing proper jobs in our city, our state and our country.”
“One misconception that a lot of people have is that immigrant communities don’t want laws and don’t want rules. We left our respective countries to escape lawlessness. For us to say we don’t want laws here in the city of New York, the most diverse city, that’s absurd,” Singh said. “I’ve been here since the age of 8, and it’s never been this bad.”