US shootout: Shock & gloom in Punjab villages

US lawmakers have demanded a thorough probe

Aparna Banerji & Sanjeev Bakshi

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, April 18

The death of Amarjit Kaur Johal (66), among the four American-Sikhs killed in a shootout at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis, US, has sent shock waves in Jalandhar’s Salempur Masandan village. Kaur and her husband Makhan Singh moved to the US more than 35 years ago. The residents described her as a pious and amiable person. “She did not deserve to die like this,” said a mourner.

A grieving Sewa Singh Johal, Makhan Singh’s cousin, said the Johals would often visit the village and took a keen interest in the village affairs. “Warm and congenial, my sister-in-law was respected by all,” he said.

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Jaswinder Kaur (64), Amarjit Kaur Sekhon (48) and Jaswinder Singh (71) were the others members of the Sikh community who died in the mass shootout. Jaswinder Singh belonged to Kotla Naudh Singh village in Hoshiarpur. His two sons, Varinder and Jatinder, are farmers. They own nine acres of land. Varinder plans to travel to the US for his father’s last rites. Jatinder Singh told The Tribune that his father intended to visit the village after the pandemic was over. “He was living with our elder brother Gurinder. He last visited Punjab four years ago. A day before he was killed, he spoke with me on the phone, saying he wanted to return at the earliest. He had started working at the FedEx facility only a week ago because he was bored staying at home,” Jatinder Singh told The Tribune.

Shooter’s family apologises

The family of the 19-year-old shooter, Brandon Scott Hole, in Indiana who killed eight persons, including four Sikhs, has apologised to the relatives of the victims, saying they were “devastated” by the actions of their son and that they tried to get him the help he needed. PTI

Deceased Amarjit Kaur Sekhon (48), who hailed from Issewal in Ludhiana, joined FedEx last year. Sekhon and victim Jaswinder Kaur had close family ties, said sources.

Meanwhile, influential US lawmakers and Sikh leaders have sought a thorough probe into the mass shooting.

“Investigators must determine if this mass shooting was a hate-motivated attack, “Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said. The United States has witnessed a wave of anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic.

Gurinder Singh Khalsa, president of the Indiana-based Sikhs Political Action Committee, announced a task force to look into the circumstances and potential lapses that resulted in the tragedy. “Learning that four of those killed in the Indianapolis shooting were members of the Sikh community is heart-wrenching,” tweeted Sabrina Singh, Deputy Press Secretary to the US Vice- President.

Sikh community holds a prayer meet in Indianapolis. AP/PTI

“This is shocking. We are in touch with federal agencies... We urge the administration to investigate all motives, including hate and bias,” said Manvinder Singh, director of advocacy, United Sikhs.

Ajay Shah, president of the World Hindu Council of America, said: “We stand ready to help them (victims’ kin) in this hour of need.”

“My heart breaks for all the victims of this tragedy,” said eminent Indian-American Neera Tanden. About 200 people attended a candlelight vigil at Krannert Park on Indianapolis’ westside on Saturday evening.

(With PTI inputs)

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