On Jan. 1, the city of Fresno, California, made headlines for a horrific act of violence. A 68-year-old Sikh American man named Gurcharan Singh Gill was found stabbed to death at an auto repair shop near downtown, becoming the city’s first homicide of 2016.
The crime remains unsolved, but its proximity to an earlier attack — one where 68-year-old Amrik Singh Bal was hit by a car and beaten so badly his collarbone got shattered on Dec. 27 — raised broader concerns about festering anti-Sikh violence in the region.
Now, there’s been another attack: On Monday evening, a yet-unnamed Sikh couple were severely beaten and robbed by two assailants not far from their Fresno home, KFSN reports.
The husband was 70 and the wife was 69, placing them squarely in the age range of the two previous victims. Yet police told KFSN the assault will not be investigated as a hate crime because robbery appears to have been the motive.
Needless to say, there’s reason to be skeptical. For one, the attack seems to have happened after the assailants took the man’s cell phone. “He just rushes and kind of cold cocks the victim in the face, really for no reason,” Fresno police Lt. Joe Gomez told reporters.
Not to mention the bigger pattern this violence reflects. In a previous report, Mic examined the history of Sikhism in California’s Central Valley region, where many Sikhs make their home, and found that claims about violence against Sikhs occurring mainly because they are being mistaken for Muslims may not hold true in Fresno.
“It’s different here, where there’s such a Sikh presence,” Deep Singh, acting director of the Jakara Movement — a California-based Sikh youth organization — told Mic in January. “The men who attacked Amrik Singh Bal [in December] would likely not have stopped if they knew the turbaned and bearded man they were beating was a Sikh rather than a Muslim.”
In the meantime, reports of xenophobic violence are on the rise, as GOP candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz ride a wave of Islamphobia and anti-immigrant rhetoric to political stardom. “I’ve been called more names on the street in last two weeks than last two years,” Simran Jeet Singh, professor of religion at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, told Mic.
t’s an ugly time, and only getting uglier as right-wing candidates edge closer and closer to the White House. Meanwhile, the attack on the Sikh couple in Fresno remains unsolved. Add their beating to the already long list of violence against Sikhs in the region.