Sikhs to hold rally to protest attack on community member

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New York, Nov 28 (UNI) The Indian-American community, along with many others, is organising a candlelight vigil in a show of support to a severely injured Sikh taxi driver, who was brutally attacked in an apparent hate crime incident over the weekend.

Sikh Coalition, a community organisation, has appealed to all people, concerned particularly members of the Indian community in Seattle, Washington, where the attack took place. The vigil is slated for tomorrow.

''Sikhs in this area want this to be handled appropriately and taken seriously as a hate crime incident,'' Hardeep singh Rekhi, an acquaintance of the victim and an attorney, was quoted as saying in The Seattle-Post Intelligencer.

''I've lived in Seattle my whole life, and I know this is something Seattle wouldn't find acceptable for its community members to do,''he added.

The victim, Sukhvir Singh, is now in hospital, according to Sikh Coalition, which condemned the attack and demanded that the police declare the incident as a 'hate crime' matter so that severe punishment could be meted out to the assailant.

On Saturday, a passenger in Sukhvir's cab began verbally abused him, calling the sikh an 'Iraqi terrorist'.

The passenger also threatened to kill Sukhvir, according to Sikh Coalition and various news accounts.

As the drunken passenger's mood worsened, he attacked the cabbie by trying to choke him off and knocking off his turban, according to the reports.

The driver was hospitalised immediately after the incident.

Though he was discharged, the 48-year-old Sukhvir remained ill. He was admitted to hospital again on Monday night.

He is being treated in the hospital for acute renal failure.

The local King County Prosecution Attorney's Office yesterday said the assault was currently being investigated.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched a probe into the incident and mulling to file federal hate crime charges against the assailant, described as a 20-year-old who was arrested.

The suspect was released on a 25,000 dollar bail yesterday.

Sikh Coalition, quoting Sukhvir, said: ''I am in a lot of pain, and don't understand why someone would do this to me. I love America and hope that in my case, justice will be done.'' In the immediate aftermath of September 11 terrorist attacks, many Sikhs across the United States were attacked as they were mistaken for Arabs because of their appearance.

Though no specific figures are available, Sikhs constitute a significant chunk of the 3 million strong Indian-American community.

UNI

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