‘I Never Expected Racism to Happen to Me’, Says Sikh Victim of Racial Attack

An Indian American businessman was the victim of a racially-motivated attack Sept 9, in Darien, Ill., a suburb of Chicago.

“I have lived in this country for 28 years. I never expected racism to happen to me,” Inderjit Singh Mukker, 53, told India-West.

Mukker said he was driving from his home to a nearby Indian grocery store on the evening of the attack when a car that had been tailgating him pulled up in front of him.

The victim said he was in the right lane, and the assailant, who had been in the left lane, pulled into the lane, completely cutting him off and blocking him. Mukker stopped his car when he saw the assailant getting out of his car.

“He started punching me repeatedly like a rubber ball,” said Mukker emotionally, noting that he spent a day in the hospital being treated for lacerations and bruises to his face. He lost consciousness during the attack and was treated at the scene of the crime, as well as the hospital.

As the assailant – who is a juvenile and therefore not being named – reached into Mukker’s car and repeated his blows, he yelled: “Bin Laden, why are you driving this Prius? Go back to your own country,” according to Mukker, a father of two who manages several rental properties and also drives for Uber.

Mukker, who was alone in his car, said the young offender kept repeating his racist sentiments during the attack. The victim said he has lived in Darien since 2006 but has never felt any element of racism prior to the attack. “My neighborhood is very peaceful. Everyone is friends with one another,” he said.

Darien Police Chief Ernest Brown told India-West the racist attack was without precedent. “I’ve been the police chief here for four years; this is the first incident that we have classified as a hate crime.”

Brown said the attack began as a road rage incident but escalated into a hate crime. Illinois statutes regarding hate crimes are broader than most other states: the assailant need not have a “state of mind” – prior intent – to commit the hate crime, explained Brown.

The police chief said the attacker, who is 17, is currently undergoing treatment at the hospital for injuries unrelated to the attack on Mukker. Brown said he did not yet know what the assailant would be charged with.

Brown said he has been in contact with the Sikh Coalition and the Department of Justice and is looking into training for his officers in regards to the handling of hate crimes against minorities. He characterized Darien as “one of the safest cities in the U.S. with an extremely diverse population,” including many Indian Americans. The case is currently under investigation, he said.

Harsimran Kaur, legal director of the Sikh Coalition, said in a press statement: “We believe Mr. Mukker was targeted and assaulted because of his Sikh religious appearance, race or national origin. We request an immediate investigation and call on local and federal agencies to investigate this attack as a hate crime.” While Sikhs have been an integral part of the American fabric for over 125 years, the community has faced disproportionate discrimination and targeted hate crimes in the 14 years since 9/11, she noted.

“No American should be afraid to practice their faith in our country,” said Mukker in a statement released by the Sikh Coalition. “I’m thankful for the swift response of authorities to apprehend the individual, but, without this being fully investigated as a hate crime, we risk ignoring the horrific pattern of intolerance, abuse and violence that Sikhs and other minority communities in this country continue to face,” he said.

Source: India West