Ten years after a mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the son of one of the victims told Sky News that not enough is being done to keep the community safe.

On August 5, 2012, the Oak Creek Sikh community was attacked when white supremacist Wade Page stormed a Gurdwara in Wisconsin and killed six worshipers before shooting himself to death.

A seventh severely paralyzed person died of injuries sustained in 2020.

Among the victims was the temple president, Satwant Singh Kaleka.

Satwan 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 flee the area unharmed, however in the process he suffered gunshot wounds.

FBI agents described Mr. Kaleka as “a hero” for fighting to the death while protecting others.

His son, Pardeep Singh Kaleka, told Sky News that “we are continuing to build around the wound in the community.”

He became a key activist against hate crime in the area thanks to his commitment to community work. He said the most important thing for him is that “we continue to push for a society free from bigotry and hatred”.

Pardeep asks for a
Pardeep Singh Kaleka calls for a “social approach” to reduce hate crime. Photo: Angela Maggiore

He said, “Not enough has been done to keep communities like ours safe,” adding, “That’s why we continue to support change.”

“I’m trying to prevent the next Wade Page out there from harming any 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 we will use the sword of compassion to build a more just society.”

A bullet hole remains in the jamb of a Sikh temple door.

A plaque below reads “We are one” – a key Sikh principle.

Sikh hate crimes are on the rise

The FBI began monitoring anti-Sikh hate crimes and prejudice incidents after the attack.

Testimony from 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.

Harpreet Singh Saini, whose mother was killed in the shooting, testified at a hearing on hate crimes in 2012
Harpreet Singh Saini testified at a hearing on hate crimes in 2012

However, reporting of hate crimes is not mandatory in the United States, so the available data “is an insufficient count of the actual number of hate crimes,” he said.

Saini, who testified in 2012, this week called on Congress to “take action today on three pieces of legislation to counter the kind of hatred we face.”

The most recent FBI data, released in 2021, shows that anti-Sikh hate crimes hit a record 89 documented incidents in 2020, reflecting an 82% increase over 2019, despite an overall decrease in the number. of anti-religious hate crimes.

This year also witnessed multiple attacks on Sikhs, including two assaults on New York in 10 days.

The Oak Creek Massacre killed seven worshipers.  Pic: Sikh Coalition
The massacre saw seven faithful killed. Pic: Sikh Coalition

Events taking place to commemorate the 10th anniversary

The Oak Creek Sikh community will host a variety of events to commemorate the anniversary, including a candlelit vigil and a community event that will define the spirit of the “chardi kala” – eternal resilience, optimism and joy.

Oak Creek Mayor Daniel Bukiewicz told Sky News officials will be attending, including members of the Department of Justice and Homeland Security.

Mayor Daniel Bukiewicz gets a turban tied at the Chardi Kala community event.  Photo: Leslie Flynn
Mayor Daniel Bukiewicz gets a turban tied at a community event. Photo: Leslie Flynn

“The incident shook not just Oak Creek, but all of Wisconsin and the Sikh community around the world,” he said.

“I have experienced that the feelings and beliefs of the Sikhs are one of unity and acceptance”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.