| Avtar Singh Chiera talks to the media at the hospital. (AP)
Washington, May 21 (PTI): In the latest incident of hate crime in the US, an Indian Sikh was shot at and seriously injured by a group of white men, police said. The shooting in Arizona has triggered fresh concern among immigrants, who have condemned the attack.
At least two white men fired at Avtar Singh Chiera, a 52-year-old truck driver, injuring him when he was waiting for his son to pick him up after parking his 18-wheeler in North Phoenix, Arizona, late on Monday.
While he was waiting, the white men pulled up in a small red pick-up truck and started yelling at him, Chiera said in a Phoenix hospital yesterday.
“I heard that voice: ‘Go back to where you belong to’ and at the same time I heard the shot,” he said.
The men opened fire, wounding Chiera in the lower abdomen and upper thigh. He was not robbed and nothing was taken from the truck, Phoenix police said.
Chiera’s son, Hardeep Singh, 23, a student of Arizona State University, found his father bleeding in the parking lot.
“He was in a lot of pain,” Hardeep said.
Police and federal authorities are investigating the shooting as a hate crime case.
The shooting of Chiera comes less than two years after Balbir Singh Sodhi, a gas station owner, was shot dead in Arizona allegedly because he was a Sikh.
Lakhwinder ‘Rana’ Singh Sodhi, Balbir’s brother, who also knows Chiera, described the shooting as “frustrating”.
“They (people here) are nice people. I can’t believe it’s happening all over again. He (Chiera) came from his work and was going home. And he was shot, and because he had a turban and a beard,” Rana said.
He added that despite efforts by the Sikhs to educate the people about their community, ignorance remains widespread.
“We get a little bit everyday,” he said. “If someone just yells at you, it really hurts, but what do you do'” Sikhs were targeted soon after the September 11 attacks on the US.
Guru Roop Kaur Khalsa, a spokeswoman for the Sikh community in Arizona, said many Arizonans have stood up for the Sikh community since Sodhi’s killing, but added that Sikhs will need to continue to educate people.
“We feel sincerely that all faiths are good and everyone should have the right to practice their faith and should not be coerced or victimised because of their faith,” she said.
National chairman of the Sikh Council on Education and Religion Rajwant Singh called on local and national leaders to find positive methods to address the negative profiling of Sikh Americans even as he consoled Chiera’s family.
“We condemn hate in all forms,” said Rajwant, who was invited to the White House days after the terror attacks in an effort to thwart religious persecution on American soil.
“We stand with god, our nation and the Chiera family in Arizona in our opposition to hate. And we are thankful that Chiera is greatly recovering from his injuries.”
“We appreciate the efforts of President (George W.) Bush in the war against terrorism and trying to save the lives of all Americans. Now we are hopeful that the administration will continue in its effort to end the negative profiling of Sikh Americans just as it had done in the immediate aftermath of (the) September 11 attacks. This attack embodied the worst fears of the Sikh community,” Rajwant said.