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A decade after a mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the son of one of the victims told Sky News that not enough was being done to keep the community safe.
On August 5, 2012, the Sikh community of Oak Creek came under attack when white supremacist Wade Page stormed a Gurdwara in Wisconsin and shot six worshippers, before killing himself.
A seventh severely paralyzed person died from their injuries in 2020.
Among the victims was the president of the temple, Satwant Singh Kaleka.
The 65-year-old used a butter knife – the only weapon he could find – to challenge Page.
His actions may have created a distraction that allowed several people to escape the area unharmed, but he was shot and wounded in the process.
FBI agents described Mr Kaleka as “a hero” for fighting to the death while protecting others.
His son, Pardeep Singh Kaleka, told Sky News “we continue to build around the hurt in the community”.
He has become a key activist in the fight against hate crimes in the region through his involvement in community work. He said the most important thing to him is that “we continue to push for a society free from bigotry and hate.”
He said: “Not enough has been done to keep communities like ours safe,” adding, “That’s why we continue to advocate for change.”
“I’m trying to stop the next Wade Page from hurting a community.”
He continued: “Justice will only be served when we build a society where hatred and violence are less likely.
“We have rebuilt our Gurdwara and will use the sword of compassion to build a more just society.”
A bullet hole remains on a door frame at the Sikh temple.
A plaque below reads “We are one” – a key Sikh principle.
Sikh hate crimes on the rise
The FBI began tracking anti-Sikh hate crimes and bias incidents after the attack.
The testimony of Harpreet Singh Saini (then 18), who lost his mother in Oak Creek, encouraged them to do so, says Sikh Coalition, a Sikh-American advocacy group.
However, hate crime reporting is not mandatory in the United States, so available data “understates the true number of hate crimes,” he said.
Mr. Saini, who testified in 2012, called on Congress this week to “act today on three pieces of legislation to counter the kind of hate we face.”
The most recent FBI data, released in 2021, shows anti-Sikh hate crimes hit a record high of 89 documented incidents in 2020, reflecting an 82% increase from 2019, despite an overall decrease in the number of incidents. anti-religious hate crimes.
This year has also seen multiple attacks on Sikhs, including two in New York in 10 days.
Events in place to commemorate the 10th anniversary
The Oak Creek Sikh Community will host a series of events to commemorate the anniversary, including a candlelight vigil and a community event defining the spirit of “chardi kala” – eternal resilience, optimism and joy.
Oak Creek Mayor Daniel Bukiewicz told Sky News that officials including members of the Department of Justice and Homeland Security will attend.
“The incident not only shook Oak Creek, but all of Wisconsin and the Sikh community around the world,” he said.
“I have found that the feelings and beliefs of Sikhs are one of unity and acceptance.”
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