Sikh shot and Pakistani shot dead in Arizona and Texas

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http://www.timesofindia.com/articleshow.asp?art_id=50046512

NEW YORK: A 52-year-old Sikh and a Pakistani were shot dead in Arizona and Texas in continuing attacks on ethnic immigrants following last week's terrorist strikes in the U.S.

Four unidentified gunmen drove up in two pick-up trucks to the gas filling station owned by Balbir Singh Sodhi at Mesa in Arizona and shot him dead Saturday night, possibly mistaking him for an Arab, Rajwant Singh, President of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, said.

However, Mesa police spokesman Sgt Mike Goulet said Sodhi was killed by a lone gunman who later went to a second station and opened fire repeatedly. The assailant also went to a house and fired several shots.

In a separate attack, Pakistani immigrant Waquer Hasan, 46, was shot dead in his grocery store in Dallas, Texas. "We don't deserve this kind of treatment," said Sodhi's younger brother Lakhwinder Singh Sodhi. "He wouldn't have any enemies," said Balbir's cousin Harjit Singh.

The owners of the second gas station said the first rounds fired by the gunman hit a tobacco rack inside the store. The clerk then dropped to the ground. The owners, brothers Ali Saad and Saad Saad, would not identify the clerk.

Latwinder Singh said "since we wear turban and beard, 99 per cent Americans think we belong to bin Laden. They come to our store, tell us we are terrorists and ask us to go back to our country", Latwinder Singh said. Balbir Singh Sodhi, according to Rajwant Singh, had received numerous death threats just as "many thousands of Sikhs are receiving throughout the nation."

Dr Singh is closely associated with a major Gurdwara and various Sikh associations in Washington and was on the White House all religious advisory body during the Clinton Administration. Police are not yet branding the latest killing as backlash but say all evidence now point in that direction.

Several Sikhs and Muslims have been harassed, abused and beaten up across the US and most of Muslim institutions closed after being targeted by hate-groups in the wake of terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on Sept 11. Gurdwaras, Hindu temples and mosques have been fired at or damaged. Police are now keeping a watch on several of them as community leaders appear on television networks and take out advertisements to explain that Sikhs having beards and wearing turban are not followers of Osama bin Laden.

President George W Bush himself has appealed several times that all Muslims should not be held responsible for an act of terrorism. But with the television networks repeatedly showing Taliban leaders and Osama bin Laden with flowing beards and headgear the attacks on Sikhs have not stopped.

A leading Sikh Community leader in New York Dr Surinder Malhtora denied reports a Sikh was beaten to death in the Queens area of the city where Richmond Gurdwara was attacked and fired at with rubber bullets a few days ago. The Indian community held a candlelight vigil last night and Malhotra said what is needed is educating the people that Sikhs are not followers of bin Laden.

( PTI ) The Times OF India Online. All rights reserved.

-- Swissrose (cellier3@mindspring.com), September 16, 2001


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