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Fifth Death Threat for Sikh Family

By Avneet Kaur, Special to Sikh News Network
Posted: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 | 10:12 am

The latest of five letters sent to a Sikh American family threatens to "shoot you dead" if they don't leave the country.

Photo Source: SALDEF

Five death-threat letters, the last of which arrived in February, have followed a Sikh American family during the last decade as they moved to various neighborhoods in metropolitan Washington.

“Because there seems to be a recurring threat to this family, it is of even greater concern to us,” said Jasjit Singh, executive director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, a Washington-based advocacy group. “Given the frequency with which this family was subjected to such incidents, (we) could not take the case lightly, or assume that it this was a childish prank.”

The group, which is representing the family, said it also could not rule out the possibility that the family is being stalked.

“I cannot say (if we are being stalked),” the head of the family told SikhNN, on the condition of anonymity. “That is more on the authorities to be able to say what is going on. They have more tools (at) their disposal.”

The family received two death threats in 2003 while living in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Their house also was vandalized with graffiti on their driveway (paraphrased): “Osama, go back to your country.”

“We never tried to follow up [on the graffiti case] after we moved,” the Sikh man said. “We wanted to move forward and put it out of our minds.”

Then two more letters followed in 2005, around Thanksgiving, after the family moved to Leesburg, Virginia.

The family moved to Sterling, Virginia, that same year, where they currently live. The neighborhood is a “mixed neighborhood,” he said. Many South Asian families, about forty percent of them Indian, live there.

But another letter arrived on Feb. 28.

“Our people in the neighborhood have been closely watching your activities and figured out you are a close associate of a secret Taliban movement on US Soil,” the letter says.

“I don’t know (if it is someone from our neighborhood),” the Sikh man said. “In 2005, we moved to this house. It was quiet for five and a half years. Then we got this letter.”

“We ask you to leave this country as soon as possible otherwise one of our people is going to shoot you dead,” the letter continues. “Don’t attempt to relocate anywhere else in America as people are closely monitoring your day to day activities.”

“It’s tough to say what would motivate someone to write a letter like this…” Jasjit Singh added. “But it could be that there is an election time starting in America. The political discourse in this country could breed a toxic sort of environment, especially to minorities. Historically we have seen a surge of challenges in communities during periods like this.”

The latest incident was brought to the attention of the Loudon County Sheriff’s Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But neither law enforcement agency offered any details regarding their investigation.

“We do not comment on the existence of an investigation,” said Jacqueline Maguire, supervisory special agent for the bureau, by e-mail. “We are aware of this incident and we remain committed to protecting the civil liberties of all Americans and will investigate any violation of federal law.”

This incident is being investigated as a hate crime, Jasjit Singh added. But, despite its racial inferences, it will not officially be considered a hate crime until a final sentence is reached.

The Sikh man has noted heightened security around his neighborhood and said he was appreciative of work being done by SALDEF and the legal authorities.

“(But) something has to come of it though,” he said. “They are doing the best they can but I hope they have got some leads.”

The letter, addressed to the “Turban Family,” fell into the family’s mailbox more than a month ago. But the words: “One of our people is going to shoot you dead,” printed on a half sheet of paper, has done little to demoralize them.

“I cannot be scared sitting in the house,” the Sikh man told SikhNN. “I go on with my regular chores. I go to work everyday. Stopping myself is not going to get me anywhere. We have to take ourselves in the high spirit because that is the Sikhi way of life.”

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