Queens lawmakers and community leaders are calling for justice after a 70-year-old Sikh man was attacked while on an early morning walk in South Richmond Hill on Sunday, April 3.
The assault occurred at 6:45 a.m. on Lefferts Boulevard and 95th Avenue. The victim, Nirmal Singh, was walking to the Sikh Cultural Society Temple nearby when a man approached him and punched him in the nose, causing him to fall to the ground, authorities said.
Following the attack, Singh was found roaming around the Gurdwara with blood on his face and jacket, community leader Japneet Singh told QNS.
Nirmal suffered a fractured nose, a swollen black eye and an injured wrist. He was taken to Jamaica Hospital but was released without treatment, Japneet Singh said.
“No one did an X-ray and if you look at his nose, it’s either fractured or broken for sure. It’s causing him a lot of pain and I’m hoping this isn’t the case, but he may have some internal injuries as well,” Japneet Singh said. “I’m going to take him back to the hospital to find out why they didn’t take an X-ray, and take him to a different hospital after that.”
According to Japneet Singh, the suspect made no attempt to rob Nirmal.
“In my humble opinion, if you see a man that had a turban and wasn’t robbed and was randomly attacked and assaulted, it had to be because of his religious garment,” Japneet Singh said. “He recalls the guy screaming but because there is a language barrier, he didn’t understand what was being said.”
There are currently no arrests at this time and the investigation remains ongoing, according to police. The attack is being investigated as a bias crime and Japneet Singh says they’re trying to obtain surveillance video of the attack.
Nirmal, who is visiting New York for the first time on a tourist visa from Canada, was afraid to report the incident to the police fearing that he would be deported.
Japneet Singh, along with others, communicated with police regarding the matter on behalf of Nirmal, who does not speak English.
“We had to tell him that we are all with him and to not be afraid and that we will try to get justice for him,” Japneet Singh said. “It’s a common thing, especially amongst immigrant communities who fear being blamed for the incident.”
While the NYPD is searching for the suspect, Nirmal is staying at the Gurdwara. His son, Japneet Singh says, is now concerned for his father’s safety and well being.
This isn’t the first time a Sikh member has been attacked in the community, Japneet Singh said.
“Last week, an uncle was walking to his house and some kids sucker-punched him and ran away,” Japneet Singh said. “Also, three months ago, a TLC taxi cab driver was waiting in line and some guy assaulted him and we were able to catch the guy.”
According to Japneet Singh, it’s important to have a dialogue to understand each other, such as conducting cultural awareness programs and religious programs to learn about other communities, as well as building a relationship with the NYPD.
“Every time something like this happens, we start back from zero. For an attack like this to happen in Little Punjab, two blocks away from the biggest temple in the U.S. when it comes to our religion, Sikhism, it just makes you think what can we do as a broader community to help alleviate this?” he said. “We need to walk shoulder to shoulder and we need to work with law enforcement, so we can help them help us.”
Japneet Singh is now calling on Mayor Eric Adams and Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz to take swift action and to help find the suspect.
This morning Sikh uncle was targeted and brutally attacked because of how he looked in the heart of Richmond Hill which has one of the largest Sikh populations in the US. We are calling on @NYCMayor @NYCMayorsOffice @QueensDAKatz to take swift action and help find the perpetrator
— Japneet Singh (@JapneetSingh4NY) April 3, 2022
In response to the incident, the Sikh Coalition, a New York-based organization founded in 2001 that defends Sikh civil rights, said they’re “working quickly to engage the Richmond Hill sangat to learn more facts and details and assess what resources and support could be useful.”
The Sikh Coalition is aware of the reported assault on an elderly Sikh man in Queens, New York this morning. We are working quickly to engage the Richmond Hill sangat to learn more facts and details and assess what resources and support could be useful.
— Sikh Coalition (@sikh_coalition) April 3, 2022
Meanwhile, Queens lawmakers and community leaders denounced the attack and are showing support for the Sikh community.
State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, who is the first Punjabi American elected to New York state office representing Richmond Hill and the Sikh capital of the United States, said there will be zero tolerance for violence against the Sikh American community in her district.
“I am in contact with the NYPD and will do everything in my power to see that the perpetrator of this crime is brought to justice,” Rajkumar said. “I want Nirmal Singh and all members of our community to know that I am here for you. Bringing public safety and security to all communities in my district has always been one of my top priorities and every day I work towards that goal.”
Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. said the attack on Nirmal Singh was a “despicable display of hatred and cowardice.”
“Nirmal Singh did nothing to provoke this heinous assault, and after any attack on a person of a specific race or religion, we must look into it as a possible hate crime,” Addabbo said. “I will offer whatever assistance is needed by the NYPD in their search for this suspect and my thoughts are with Mr. Singh and the entire Sikh community of Richmond Hill.”
New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams tweeted, “This violence is horrific and needs to end. We stand with our Sikh community, our neighbors. We must come together to root out the hate that leaves too many communities feeling unsafe.”
This morning, a #Sikh worshipper on his way to the Gurdwara was brutally attacked in my district. This violence is horrific & needs to end. We stand with our Sikh community, our neighbors. We must come together to root out the hate that leaves too many communities feeling unsafe.
— Adrienne Adams (@NYCSpeakerAdams) April 3, 2022
In a statement to QNS, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards wished Nirmal a full and speedy recovery from the physical and mental trauma he endured from the senseless violence.
“My office is in contact with the NYPD about this attack, and I am confident it will be exhaustively investigated. No member of our Sikh community, or any community, deserves to feel unsafe walking down the streets of the ‘World’s Borough,’ and we will continue to stand as one united borough against violence of any kind,” Richards said.