Jersey City sikh community on edge after recent attacks, urges education

Recent violent attacks against members of the sikh community have some in Jersey City concerned for their safety. (2/27/14)

JERSEY CITY - Recent violent attacks against members of the sikh community have some Jersey City concerned for their safety.

Inderjit Singh says on Feb. 15 he was beaten in a dispute over shoveled snow that escalated into bias. "They were beating me with the shovel and also they said 'You're Osama'," he says. "Yeah. 'You go back to your country'."

Singh says one of the two men who attacked him yanked his beard, ripping out a clump of hair. Strands of his beard, which sikhs consider sacred, are still embedded in the snow. 

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After initially downplaying the incident, Singh says fellow sikhs urged him to file a new police report with more details of the assault. He says his attackers also knocked out a tooth.

Jersey City's sikh community was already on edge following a previous attack in January near Liberty Avenue and Spruce Street, where two sikhs say they were beaten.

"I'm here 18 years," says Atma Singh. "This never happened before. We walk in the street late at night. This never happens."

Sikh leaders and the larger Indian community met with city officials Wednesday to urge more education about their customs.

"We need more awareness by doing interfaith events or by having more representation in the community so we can spread the awareness," says Kuldeep "Sunny" Kumar.

Sikh leaders are organizing a vigil on March 21 outside City Hall. They're asking people of all faiths to join.

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