Hardeep Singh

Why Sikhs are worried about the Indianapolis mass shooting

Sikhs attend a vigil after the Indianapolis shooting (photo: Getty)

Last week, the New York Times mapped the location and number of casualties of mass shootings that have occurred on US soil in 2021. It’s a ‘partial’ list, but remarkable, nevertheless. March alone saw the senseless killing of ten people in Colorado, four in California, eight in Atlanta, four in Indianapolis and another four in Maryland. More remarkably still, the shootings occurred unabated throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.

Last Thursday saw yet more mindless carnage in America, with the third mass shooting in Indianapolis this year. A FedEx facility was targeted, and half the victims were local Sikhs (there is a 10,000 strong community across Indiana). Whilst the authorities continue to investigate the motivation behind Thursday’s attack, the perpetrator has been identified as an ex-FedEx employee – 19-year-old Brandon Hole, who has had issues with his mental health, was known to law enforcement, and had browsed white supremacist websites. The New York based advocacy group the Sikh Coalition have asked for a full investigation into ‘the possibility of bias as factor’ for the rampage.

For Sikhs the collective trauma of Wisconsin will now be amplified by Indianapolis

The gunman’s motivation is unknown, but the anxiety as to whether the FedEx carnage is motivated by racial or religious hatred is linked to a previous mass shooting on 5 August 2012, in which six innocent worshippers were murdered in a Sikh temple (Gurdwara) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The perpetrator, army veteran Wade Michael Page, was a white supremacist who was involved in the white power music scene, playing in bands called Blue Eyed Devils and Definite Hate.

There have been beatings and murders of Sikhs across America ever since 9/11. But the Sikh experience is often overlooked, and it’s fair to say it’s been subsumed within the broader ‘Islamophobia’ debate.

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