Oct. 31, 2023 By Anthony Medina
In the wake of a string of attacks on people of the Sikh faith, Mayor Eric Adams joined Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar and Sikh leadership at a temple in South Richmond Hill to call for an end to hate crimes against Sikhs.
City officials and religious leaders gathered on Oct. 29 inside the Baba Makhan Shah Lubana Sikh Center, where they heard about the death of Jasmer Singh, 66, a family man and cherished member who died from injuries sustained in an alleged road rage incident this month.
The victim’s son, Subeg Singh Multani, spoke to the attendees about his father’s life and noted how his dad advocated for the Sikh community and its safety. He also called on city leaders to stand up for the welfare of Sikhs.
“I am requesting to you, please take some strong measures,” Singh Multani said, adding that he didn’t want anyone else to face the loss of a family member in such a violent manner.
Jasmer Singh was killed after he got into a vehicular collision in Richmond Hill on Thursday, Oct. 19, that led to a dispute with another driver, Gilbert Augustin, 30, of 111th Avenue. The argument quickly turned violent.
Singh was punched multiple times in the head before falling to the ground, where his head hit the pavement, police said. Augustin then drove away but was arrested and taken into custody hours after the incident, cops said.
Authorities continue to investigate, and Augustin has not at this time been charged with a hate crime.
“Let me tell you, Mr. Mayor, we are the fifth largest religion in the world and all the Gurus taught us that equality must be prevailed,” Singh Multani emphasized in his remarks at the temple.
Adams shared his condolences with the family of the deceased and promised to do more educate the public and himself about Sikhism in the city.
“I will commit myself to educate, to protect and to continuously be a part of this community. This community means so much to me. Throughout my campaign, I visited you often and I saw how much you contribute to this city,” Adams said. “To lose a member of your community in this magnitude is a stain on our entire city and nation.”
Members of Sikh faith also gathered to condemn the recent attack of a Sikh teenager in Richmond Hill.
While riding an MTA shuttle bus in the vicinity of Liberty Avenue and 118th Street, at around 9 a.m. on Oct. 15, Mani Sandhu, 19, was on his way to temple when he was assaulted by a Manhattan man, who confronted him and said: “We don’t wear that in this country and take that mask off,” according to police.
The attacker, Christopher Philippeaux, 26, of Park Avenue in East Harlem, attempted to remove the 19-year-old’s turban and allegedly punched Sandhu in the back of the head, face, and back multiple times, police said. Philippeaux has been charged with a hate crime.
Rajkumar, who also spoke to attendees at the gathering, called for an end to the violence against the Sikh community.
“This is our fight for civil rights. This is our demand, stop the hate. Stop the targeting of Sikh Americans and see the Sikhs for who we really are. The protectors of society, proud Americans with generous hearts,” Rajkumar said. “As the first and only Punjabi elected to state office, I am your fighter in the halls of government and since I was a child, my uncle always told me, the Sikhs are our protectors. The Sikhs are the protectors of society, but now we need to ask who is protecting the Sikhs? And the answer is us.”
The mayor was also given a traditional Kirpan, a sword carried by Sikh men and an item representative of their religious faith.
“I will use the symbolism of this sword to continue what you have done for hundreds of years, to be a protector to be a fighter to be a warrior for the peace and prosperity of our city,” Adams added.