A 76-year-old and a 64-year-old were approached Tuesday morning by two men who allegedly assaulted them with their fists and a stick, a spokesperson for the New York Police Department told CNN. The victims, who have not been publicly identified, were taken to the hospital in stable condition, police said.
One suspect has been taken into custody, while the other was still at large as of Tuesday night, according to the NYPD. Police said the incident is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
The attack took place in Richmond Hill, a neighborhood also known as Little Punjab for its sizable population of Sikh and Indian immigrants. It comes nine days after Nirmal Singh, a 70-year-old Sikh man who had been visiting New York from Punjab, India, was punched in the face while walking in the neighborhood.
“Sikhs have repeatedly faced this kind of violence — now multiple times in this same place in this month alone,” Nikki Singh, senior policy and advocacy manager for the Sikh Coalition,
said in a statement. “As an organization that works to combat and prevent hate, we continue to stand with the Sikh community in Queens as well as all impacted New York City communities who routinely experience these hate crimes.”
Nirmal Singh has since returned to India to be with his family, his son said. Last week, the NYPD released
surveillance video of the suspect believed to have attacked Singh, offering a reward of up to $3,500 for information. It is unclear whether the suspect in Nirmal Singh’s case was involved in the attacks on Tuesday.
“Our family is overwhelmed and grateful for the amount of support my father received after this horrible assault. He has now arrived back in India, where he can receive the additional care and support he needs in this difficult time from our family,” Manjit Singh , one of Nirmal Singh’s sons, said in a statement provided to CNN by the Sikh Coalition.
“We are hopeful that a suspect will be arrested, because we see this as an attack on all who wear turbans and other articles of faith — and even though my father has left New York, we will do everything we can to continue helping the investigation.”
Sikhs have long faced violence and discrimination
Sikhs make up the world’s fifth-largest religious community. While a majority live in the Indian state of Punjab, the diaspora spans across the globe, and more than 500,000 Sikhs are estimated to be living in the US.
Many Sikhs keep their hair uncut and neatly wrapped in a turban as a public commitment to their faith, and their distinctive appearance has made them targets of violence and discrimination.
The first Sikhs to arrive in North America came as laborers in the late 19th century, and experienced racist mob violence as part of the 1907 Bellingham riots. More recently, Sikhs were scapegoated in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and targeted in the 2012 shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Four of the eight victims killed in a mass shooting last year at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis were also Sikh, although authorities have said it did not appear that the shooter was “motivated by bias or a desire to advance an ideology.”
The recent attacks in Queens also come as New York has recently reported a spike in hate crimes, particularly against Asian Americans. The NYPD recorded 524 hate crime incidents in 2021, nearly double the 2020 count, according to a report from the department. That number was the highest reported in five years, according to police archives.