Jashanpreet Kaur: Sikhs Across America Hold Vigils For The Indianapolis Shooting Victims

One of which included a candlelight vigil organized by the New York Sikh Council at Smokey Park in Queens, New York. 

Jashanpreet Kaur
April 20, 2021 | 2 min. read

Sikhs around the world continue to mourn the loss of the eight people killed, including four from the community, during the April 15 mass shooting at the FedEx in Indianapolis. 

Dozens of vigils and prayer ceremonies have taken place across the United States. One of which included a candlelight vigil organized by the New York Sikh Council at Smokey Park in Queens, New York. 

People from various faiths gathered in solidarity, lighting candles in memory of victims they had never met, but felt connected to.

“It’s not going to bring back the people, but it will provide a sense of hope and optimism, coming together as a community will address this issue so that it doesn’t happen again, “ said Japneet Singh, the president of New York Sikh Council.

The solemn ceremony concluded with an ardas at the Sikh Cultural Society of Richmond Hills Gurdwara, just a few blocks away. The area is heavily populated with Sikhs. 

Four out of the eight victims were Sikhs, some of which were recent immigrants. This made the tragedy really personal for Japneet Singh.

“We all come to this country, hoping for a better life for our families. In fact, I have family in Indiana, my sister lives there which made it more painful to know that it happened so close to home,” he said.

Jaspal Singh, the Vice President for NY Sikh Council, reflected on his initial reaction to the news and how it shifted once he learned more about who the victims were.

“I was enraged when I first heard about the shooting but upon reading more into what actually went down, I was saddened. It brought pain to my heart to see my people getting targeted in such a horrific display of hate.” 

The event organizers hope that this vigil will draw greater attention to hate crimes against Asian communities, and how it impacts Sikhs specifically. Recent revelations that the shooter had a history of visiting white supremacist websites underline a real threat in America today. Many in the community feel that the facility was specifically targeted because a majority of its employees are Sikhs.

Attendees at the vigil commented that Sikhs have been at the forefront in supporting diverse communities during the pandemic, and before that as well - whether that has been through langar seva, humanitarian work, or standing in solidarity with other marginalized groups. However, the Indianapolis shooting has made clear that the issues facing minority communities like Sikhs in America are much greater than merely a problem of representation and awareness in the mainstream.

Japneet Singh adds a final thought.

“When we organize vigils, we let it be known that this is not okay, and we’re going to stand up for our rights.”

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Jashanpreet Kaur is a high school junior from New York who is passionate about writing about social justice issues. While her work at her school newspaper has varied, she felt the spark when bringing awareness to the Farmers’ Protest and the Sikh community. You find her on Twitter at @validd_jashan.


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