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Sikh Americans Hold Vigils and Prayers to Mourn Those Killed at the FedEx Mass Shooting in Indianapolis

Sikh Americans Hold Vigils and Prayers to Mourn Those Killed at the FedEx Mass Shooting in Indianapolis

Staff Writer
  • Family members and friends took turns placing flowers in front of plaques labeled with the victims' names or their photos, and speakers shared memories of the loved ones they lost.

Members of the Sikh community from all across the country came out in large numbers to hold vigils and prayers to mourn the four Sikh Americans killed at a mass shooting at the FedEx Ground Plainfields Operation Center in Indianapolis, Indiana, April 15. Amarjeet Kaur Johal, 66; Jaswinder Singh, 70; Amarjeet Sekhon, 49; and Jasvinder Kaur, 50, were among eight lives that were cut short by Brandon Scott Hole, a 19-year-old former employee, who went on a shooting rampage on April 15. Hole was later found dead in what is believed to be a suicide nearby.

In Indianapolis, people gathered at several vigils held across the city, from gurdwaras to parking lots. As they gathered and remembered those killed and decried gun violence, flags atop the Indiana Statehouse went to half-staff. Family members and friends of those who died took turns placing flowers in front of plaques labeled with the victims’ names or their photos; and speakers shared memories of the loved ones they lost. 

A vigil in Sacramento, California. Top photo, mourners in Indianapolis.

Gurpreet Balaggan, the nephew of shooting victims Amarjeet Kaur Johal and Jasvinder Kaur spoke at a vigil at Monument Circle in Indianapolis over the weekend, reported IndyStar. He said he had “no words” to describe what the families of the victims are going through. But he urged togetherness. “Let’s come together,” he added. “Let’s pray. Let’s bring change. Let’s end the hate. Let’s act as humans first. We need to all come together, learn to live together (and) love each other.”

Maninder Singh Walia, chair of the Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis told IndyStar this shooting “as touched and struck our home, which is not easy to explain. The question will remain how this has happened here. Why?” Those questions, Walia added, “may never be answered.”

Vigil in Missouri.

Democratic Congressman André Carson representing Indiana’s 7th Congressional District took to his social media to condemn the attacks. “Today I was honored to visit a local Sikh Gurdwara to help pay tribute to the four Sikh people who lost their lives during last week’s shooting at the FedEx facility,” he wrote. “Hoosiers are committed to saving lives wherever they are threatened.”

Several Sikhs were amongst the 875 workers at FedEx’s 300,000-square foot arranging center near Indianapolis International Airport terminal. The facility was known as the ‘Desi FedEx’ or the ‘Punjabi FedEx’ because of the number of people from the community working there, a prominent member of the Sikh American community from Indianapolis, who did to want to be identified, told American Kahani. “Even the leadership here is mainly Punjabi, so communication was never a barrier [for the Sikh and Punjabi people working here].” About 10,000 Sikh Americans have made Indiana their home over the past 50 years, with most living in Hendricks County and the Southside of Indianapolis.

The killings have sent shockwaves within the community, with many recalling the tragic hate-crimes committed on Sikh Americans since Sept. 11. 2011. Although the motive of the gunman is unknown, local leaders said his actions generated fear similar to what many Sikhs felt after the Sept. 11 attacks, when they were confused for Muslims, and after a 2012 rampage by a white supremacist, who killed six people at a gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Meanwhile, authorities have not yet said whether bias is a factor in the gunman’s motive many in the community believe that the incident could be driven by anti-Sikh sentiments. “We don’t recognize whether this was targeted or a coincidence,” Dr. Sukhwinder Singh, 29, a leader at his gurdwara, told IndyStar. “We are all so numb. This is something that will certainly take weeks to procedure.”

Vigil in Indianapolis.

In Queens, New York, members of the Sikh community held a vigil in Richmond Hill. Among attendees was New York Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar. “My thoughts and prayers and all of our hearts here in Richmond Hill go out to the victims of this senseless shooting,” Rajkumar said, according to an Associated Press report. On her Facebook page, Rajkumar wrote: “I stand with my community calling for action to end gun violence & hate crimes in America.”

All the way on the other side of the country, in California, a candlelight vigil was held at a Sikh temple in Riverside. Signs were held to remember all eight victims during the vigil.

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In Sacramento, members of the community, as well as some city officials, gathered outside the west side of Capitol Mall on April 18 evening to hold a vigil and condemn ongoing gun violence and anti-Asian hate, the Sacramento Bee reported. Also in attendance was student Tanveer Singh, a granddaughter of Amarjeet Kaur, one of the victims, the Bee reported, She remembered Marajeet Kaur as “incredibly hardworking and someone who expressed her love through her cooking.” 

Similarly, Jasmeen Kaur, a cousin of one of Amarjeet Kaur’s grandchildren, said “Amarjeet helped her practice her Punjabi and showed her what being a strong Punjabi woman meant.” Similar vigils were held across the state Sunday night in Bakersfield, Ceres, Fremont, and Sacramento. “The families that have lost their loved ones and not only to this last weekend, but for the many that were lost in the many incidents that have been before this one,” said Habir Kaur Bhatia, at the Fresno vigil. She is a commissioner at the Santa Clara Cultural Commission

On April 18, the Sikh American organization Jakara Movement hosted a series of candlelight vigils across the state, including in Fresno, Bakersfield and Modesto. ‘Enough is enough, I mean we already have so many shootings in America,” said local resident Gurdeep Shergill. ” I hope our government: Republicans and Democrats, and Independents, I hope they do something about this.”

In Missouri, leaders in the Sikh community came together to host a vigil remembering the lives of the victims and stand in solidarity with their families, as well as discuss issues surrounding mass shootings, such as gun safety, control, and mental health, reported Fox2Now. “This is a pattern. We’ve seen a lot of mass shootings that have been happening,” said Deb Bhatia, the founder of Sikhs of STL. “I wanted the whole community together. Us together here, the message will go to the whole nation that we also feel their pain.”

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