In an apparent hate crime, a 21-year-old Sikh student from India was attacked in Canada’s British Columbia province by a group of unknown men who ripped off his turban and dragged him across the sidewalk by his hair, according to a media report.
Gagandeep Singh was assaulted when he was heading home on Friday night, CTV news reported.
Councillor Mohini Singh said she heard of the attack shortly after it happened and went to visit Gagandeep.
“I was horrified when I saw him. He could only speak in soft tones and he couldn’t open his mouth,”‘ she told the news channel.
She said the young man’s eyes were swollen shut and that he was obviously in significant pain.
The councillor says she was told that Gagandeep was heading home around 10:30 pm after grocery shopping when he encountered a group of between 12 and 15 other young people on the bus. It was St. Patrick’s Day and Mohini Singh says a rowdy group was on the bus, throwing a wig around.
“They were harassing him and they threw the wig at him. He told them not to bother him or he’d call the police, and they continued to harass him,” she said.
Gagandeep got off the bus.
“They got off after him, waited for the bus to leave and then they swarmed him, they beat him in his face, in his ribs, arms, and legs and then proceeded to grab his turban, pull his hair and drag him,” Mohini Singh said, adding that the group took the turban with them when they left Gagandeep in a pile of “dirty snow” on the side of the road.
“Taking his turban was the worst, it feels like they’ve taken it as a trophy.” After he regained consciousness, Gagandeep called a friend who came to the scene and called 911.
Mohini Singh said that Gagandeep’s friends and fellow international students have been left shaken and scared by the attack, prompting a gathering at the bus stop Sunday where they spoke out about how they feel less safe in their community.
The councillor says the fact that Gangandeep is Sikh and from India was “undoubtedly” a factor in the assault.
“I entirely believe this is racism and it should be treated as that. It should be looked at through the lens of being a hate crime. This is so wrong on so many levels. This is not something that is acceptable anywhere — not in Kelowna, not anywhere,” she said.
“This is intolerable, it’s absolutely disgusting.” The Kelowna Royal Canadian Mounted Police, in a statement, confirmed that they are investigating after someone was “hit from behind and assaulted” by a group of people at the bus stop Friday evening and that responding officers found the victim “laying on the ground.” No details about injuries were provided but authorities said the victim was taken to hospital by paramedics.
“The Kelowna RCMP take this very seriously and are concerned that this type of crime has happened in our city,” spokesperson Constable Mike Della-Paolera said.
“This assault is the top priority for our investigators.”