- Yuvraj Bindra and his friend Chazbir Bedi Singh were reportedly harassed by a group of teenagers who punched Bindra and made racially motivated comments.
A 13-year-old Long Island teen was arrested on June 4 and charged with aggravated harassment as a hate crime for allegedly punching another teen and making racially motivated comments, police in Suffolk County said. The weekend altercation took place at Walt Whitman Shops in South Huntington in Long Island, New York, in which a group of teenagers allegedly attacked two 13- year-old Sikh boys.
In an interview with Newsday on June 1, the boys described the attack and said it occurred at 3:30 p.m. inside the mall on May 29. Yuvraj Bindra, 13, told the local newspaper that he and his friend were at the shops, when another group of teens started verbally assaulting them, believing that the two are Muslims. Bindra recalled one of the attackers saying, “Hey, Mohammed, come here. I’ll knock that ball off your head.”
His friend, Chazbir Bedi Singh, 13, of Syosset said he was punched in the face by a teenager, while others recorded the whole incident on their phone. Bedi told News 12 that he was a member of the Sikh religion and wore a turban and believed he was attacked because of the way he looked. The teen alleged that the attackers were older teens and they punched him while spouting out racial epithets.
“I told them to chill out,” Bindra told Newsday, and immediately after that one of the teens threatened him, he said. The two boys told Newsday that they tried to walk away, but the group followed them. “And I turn around … and little do I know this kid is about to punch me,” Singh said. “He walks up, he jumps in front of me and he hits me with a closed fist on the left side of my face.” Singh didn’t suffer serious injuries.
Both boys were wearing a patka — a youth turban notable for being tied atop to cover a bun of hair. As per news report, the incident is being investigated as an Aggravated Harassment as a Hate Crime.
Singh told Newsday that he was speaking up because of his 3-year-old brother. “It doesn’t matter who we are, what you look like,” Singh said. “You may be targeted for anything. I certainly don’t want to see my classmates at school being hurt for what they look like and how they’re different.” Singh told News 12 that he has also been a victim of school bullying.
“I do these forums all the time, talking about awareness, about these issues, about how to report hate crimes,” Satbir Singh, Chazbir’s father told Newsday. “To have it happen to my own kid? I never expected that … But I guess better than anybody else. At least I know how to handle it, and what to do.” Singh said he and his wife, Supreet, dropped the boys off at the mall. “Part of me said, these are kids. Kids do these things,” Satbir Singh said. “But then the other part of that, the other side of that, is what if we let kids slide on this and let them go easily and what happens if they do something to someone else and something happens? If someone really gets hurt? What then?”
Saranjit Bindra, 53, of Dix Hills and the father of Yuvraj Bindra, told Newsday, “This was not just one comment that sometimes kids make and forget about it. They actually stalked them for some time, an hour or so, and actually punched one of our kids and another kid actually recorded it … Making people aware of this will definitely put some pressure on them from the sense this is not the right behavior.”
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone condemned the alleged attack. “It is completely unacceptable for anybody to be intimidated or attacked because of who they are, and we will not tolerate this in Nassau County,” Curran said. Bellone said he spoke with the Singh and Bindra families. “As I’ve shared with the victims’ family, any act of hate in our country is a mark against all of us and we will not tolerate this type of conduct,” he said. “An attack meant to isolate and marginalize a community in Suffolk County will bear the full brunt of the law.” Police, citing the ongoing investigation, declined to provide additional details.
Denouncing the attack, Ranjanpreet Kaur on behalf of the Sikh Coalition, via email to American Kahani stated, “According to reports, on May 29, two Sikh teens were verbally harassed and physically assaulted by another group of teens at a mall in South Huntington, NY. Our understanding is that local police are investigating the incident as a hate crime. All people— especially children–have the right to exist in public spaces without being subjected to this kind of despicable behavior. The fact that these young men were reportedly targeted with anti-Muslim language only underscores our shared and continued struggle against bigotry. No community of faith group deserves to be the target of hate and bigotry, and we support the effort to investigate this crime as bias motivated.”
Afaf Nasher, executive director of the New York chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY), condemned the assault on their webpage saying, “We applaud the young boy’s and his family’s courage to speak out about this hate incident. Too often, our Sikh brothers and sisters are targeted in hate crimes and other forms of discrimination,” adding, “we are also disturbed that the young boy has been bullied at his school. His school must address this bullying and provide a safe learning environment for him and others. No one should be bullied or targeted due to their appearance or faith.”
Nasher called for teens to be taught more about diversity and inclusion in schools. “Too often we see schools engage in diversity and inclusion but fail to center the right voices and generally present the information in an insensitive or harmful manner,” Nasher said. “His (Singh’s) school must address this bullying and provide a safe learning environment for him and others,” said. Nasher, when learning of other instances of school bullying against Singh. “No one should be bullied or targeted due to their appearance or faith.”
Satbir Singh and Saranjit Bindra say they intend to press charges against the alleged perpetrators. The teen is not being identified because of his age and will be arraigned at Suffolk County Family Court at a later date.