The NYPD is investigating an attack as a possible hate crime after a group of people allegedly attacked a Sikh cab driver in New York City.
The New York Daily News reports Harkirat Singh, 25, was taking three men and a woman to their destination when the group accused the driver of taking them the wrong way. But Singh says the group was too inebriated to tell him where to go.
“The girl's saying, 'Take the right.' The Spanish guy's saying, 'Take the left.' So, at that time, I was confused," he told the Daily News.
Soon, the four started banging on the plastic divider in the cab and hurling racial slurs at Singh, who is an immigrant from Punjab, India, and came to the U.S. three years ago.
"They're using bad words, also. They said, ‘Ali Baba, f--k you,’” Singh recounted.
Singh eventually pulled over and told the unruly passengers to pay a fare of $41.76 and find another cab. It was only after the driver called 911 that the woman gave him the money; however, things took a turn for the worse from there.
One of the men allegedly got inside the cab and tried to smash the meter, before punching Singh in the arm. Then he snatched the driver’s turban, which is a symbol of spirituality and holiness in Sikhism.
“I'm so afraid. I don't want to work,” Singh told the Daily News. "It's an insult on my religion also. An insult of my faith. It's horrible.”
The police are currently looking for only one suspect whom sources described as “a clean-shaven white Hispanic man in his 20s, around 5-foot-9 and weighing 160 lbs. He was wearing red shoes and blue jeans. He had short hair.”
Violent, racially charged attacks on Sikh Americans in the United States have been on the rise since the 9/11 attacks. Several surveys conducted over the past decades have found that a considerable number of Americans confuse Sikhism as a sect of Islam but that’s not true because they are distinctly separate religions.
Last October, two white men were arrested for allegedly brutally beating up a Sikh man, forcibly removing his turban and cutting his hair off, in Richmond, California. Just in March, an attacker shot and injured a Sikh man outside his home in Kent, Washington, before allegedly saying “get out of our country.”