A Los Angeles bus driver who was attacked and called a “terrorist” and “suicide bomber” simply for wearing a turban last November, was not recognized as a victim of hate crime, says the Sikh Coalition, a New York-based rights group.
The 56-year-old Balwinder Jit Singh, who wears a beard and a traditional turban, had just pulled over the Metro bus he was driving, when a passenger came to the front and started punching his face. Singh’s lawyer, Gurjot Kaur added that the attacker accused his client of hijacking the bus.
Singh was left with multiple bruises to his face and is now suffering from blurry vision.
The 33-year old assailant, whose name has not been released by the police, was arrested for assault the next day. However, the police did not treat the incident as a hate crime, claiming Singh never mentioned the attacker’s statements.
“Psychologically and physically, it was traumatic,” Kaur said. “It’s very frightening to be attacked in that way.”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is now investigating the allegations after receiving the statement from the victim. Sherrif Karl Schow says the account may not have been reported in its entirety initially, because of Singh’s distressed state of mind or his language barrier.
"We do investigate hate crimes. We take them very seriously," Schow said. "We're absolutely doubling back and going to add that to the investigation."
However, the Sikh advocacy group insists Singh shared the racial slurs against him, with the police, but they didn’t do enough for him at the time.
Since the 9/11 attacks, Sikhs believe that they have been on the receiving end of harassment by uninformed people who mistakenly assume they are terrorists because of stereotypical similarities between their appearances shamelessly promoted by the media — just as many American Muslims say they are subjected to abuse even though they are white.