NY Sikh Victim of Brutal Racial Attack May Lose Vision
January 23, 2009
Author/Source: Jaspreet Singh, Staff Attorney, United Sikhs
United Sikhs Works with NYPD to Ensure Attackers Charged with Hate Crime
Mejindarpal Kaur, Legal Director of United Sikhs commented, “It never gets easier each time we have to assist a victim of hate crime. The crime is horrific and the victim suffers alone both physically and emotionally. United Sikhs will assist police and the family to ensure that the perpetrators are vigorously prosecuted for a hate crime, and that the courts will send a strong signal that they treat such crimes very seriously.”
Jackson Heights, New York, USA--Jasmir Singh, a 21-year-old Sikh college student was savagely attacked and stabbed in his left eye during an unprovoked attack on Sunday outside a grocery store in Queens, New York by three young men wielding a glass bottle. Jasmir sustained injuries to his left-eye, head, face, and back, and has not regained his vision after undergoing a five hour surgery where he received 18 stitches to his eye. Police arrested two of the suspected attackers nearby, but the third remains at large. The two arrested have been charged with assault in the first degree and robbery in the first degree, both serious felony charges. United Sikhs is working with the NYPD Community Affairs Liaison to urge police to charge the attackers additionally with hate/bias crime charges.
Jasmir Singh, After Having Undergone Eye Surgery
The incident took place at about 4 am on Sunday on 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights. Jasmir Singh and his friend, Pierre Dizon, were returning home when they were confronted by three young men. Jasmir and Pierre attempted to walk away from the three men, but they would not allow them to leave. The men taunted Jasmir about his hair and beard, initially asking him why he did not cut it, and then threatening him that they were going to cut it. Jasmir and Pierre were able to enter the store to ask for assistance and call the police. The police department was on the phone when the three men entered the store, pulled Jasmir outside and began to beat him with a broken glass bottle. Jasmir was hit on his left eye causing it to rupture and bleed profusely. They continued to beat him on his back, front torso and head, causing lacerations and bleeding. Pierre Dizon, of Filipino origin, was not attacked and escaped unharmed.
Police arrested two of the attackers after they were found hiding behind a house nearby, but the third remains at large. The two arrested are aged 21 years old and 16 years old. One is of Hispanic decent and the other South Asian. Both have been charged with assault in the first degree and robbery in the first degree. United Sikhs was alerted to the attack by community leader Harpreet Singh Toor, and then shortly thereafter by Assemblyman Rory Lancman’s office.
United Sikhs Legal Director Mejindarpal Kaur, was present at Elmhurst Hospital yesterday to assist the family and met the doctors who attended to Jasmir. According to Dr. Ravi of Elmhurst Hospital, Jasmir suffered a corneal laceration of the left eye and a ruptured globe which was stitched during a five hour surgery on Sunday involving 18 stitches.
“It is too early to tell if (Jasmir’s) vision will return as there is a lot of swelling in his left eye. He will be observed again on Friday to see if there is any sign of improvement to his vision,” said Dr. Murray Meltzer, who attended to Jasmir and is Professor of Ophthalmology and the Director of Ophthalmic Plastic and Orbital Surgery, Mount Sinai Medical Center, and an internationally known pioneer for surgical and microsurgery procedures in eye reconstruction.
A regular blood-donor who had volunteered with his father to distribute fliers of missing persons at ground zero in the aftermath of 9/11, Jasmir is a sophomore studying biomedical sciences at City College. When a United Sikhs team met with Jasmir, he had not eaten for the last three days because he said he had no appetite or desire to eat and was stoic even though in pain and sedated.
“We live in a safe neighborhood and we never thought it unsafe to walk the streets at that hour. I thought they were going to cut my hair, and the next thing I had a broken bottle hit into my eye, head, front, and back torso and I could not see anything else as blood filled both my eyes,” stated Jasmir Singh.
Jasmir Singh’s father, Jiwan Singh, 54 years old, commented on his son’s condition stating, “I pleaded with the doctors to save my son's eyes when they told me that the damage was severe. I am thankful to the four doctors who stitched his eyeball. But my son's vision in his left eye has not returned.”
Commenting on the incident, he stated, “This is the fourth hate crime against my family. I had been the victim of the three previous attacks since 9/11, one of which was a stabbing while I was riding a subway train. My wife and I both work to support our six children's education, three of whom including Jasmir are college going. If you visit our modest rented home where we have no beds and we all sleep on the floor, you will not think that we could afford to make ends meet, let alone support college education. We are in deep debt because of college fees, yet we were hopeful of our family’s future. As he wiped the tears that flowed from Jasmir’s damaged eye while waiting for medical attention in the eye clinic, he added “our grown son may never see again in his left eye.”
"We will be reaching out to education trusts and the community for financial assistance to help Jasmir with his medical condition and his education, which will be a help at a time when he and his family has had to deal with a traumatic experience," said Mejindarpal Kaur, United Sikhs legal director. She said that the family is still unsure if their family medical plan will cover Jasmir's hospitalization and after care as he has reached the age of 21.
"The swearing of President Obama is the high point of this week and the attack on this young man is the low point in the United States. Americans have to understand that everyone in this country is here to make this a better place; by seeing these assaults, Sikhs have begun to question whether we can truly move about freely after 9/11 since we are being attacked based on our appearance," stated community leader Harpreet Singh Toor.
Assemblyman Rory Lancman, elected State representative for the area commented, "I am utterly appalled by the vicious, racially motivated attack on Jasmir Singh, a young Sikh man from our community. I represent a large Sikh population, and Sikhs have experienced a wave of harassment and discrimination since 9/11. Queens will not tolerate racism or bigotry of any kind. This horrific crime goes against everything we, as Americans, believe and I urge all New Yorkers to root out racial and religious prejudice."
Jiwan Singh was thankful to both Assemblymen Rory Lancman and Jose Peralta who obtained a concession from the hospital to accommodate Jasmir, who was due to be discharged today, to be retained as an inpatient until Friday due to the non-conducive environment in his home.
If you wish to assist Jasmir's family, you may donate online at http://www.unitedsikhs.org/donate or mail a check payable to United Sikhs and marked "Jasmir Singh's education and medical treatment fund" to JAF POB 7203, NY, NY 10116.
You may read a previous press release on a hate crime assisted by United Sikhs at: