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Calls for charges against Richmond Sikh boy for fake assault claims that five white men cut his hair

VANCOUVER, Jun 6 2005
CBC News

NRI Sikh community in British Columbia want to see charges laid against a 17-year-old Sikh youth who said five white men jumped him, ripped off his turban and cut off his hair two weeks ago.

They say hate crimes are a serious matter, and incidents such as this could diminish the response to real hate crimes against Sikhs.

NRI, Shinder Purewal, a Sikh instructor at Kwantlen University College, said the RCMP should lay charges against the Richmond boy, who has not been identified.

He also said the boy's family should compensate the police for any costs incurred during the investigation of the fake hate crime, because they must have known his story was untrue.

"I'm hoping – and there are many in the community who hope – the RCMP lay some charges against the boy and hopefully also against the family," Purewal told reporters over the weekend.

On Saturday, police said the youth admitted he made up the story to account for the fact that he had cut his own hair, even injuring himself to lend credibility to his story of five men punching and robbing him. For religious reasons, the boy's hair had never been cut.

A similar claim by a youth in Surrey several years ago also turned out to be a hoax.

Police wouldn't discuss a possible motive for the incident, telling a news conference Saturday that they haven't yet decided whether they will lay charges.

"I am really sorry for everything that has happened," the teenager, who has asked to remain anonymous, said in a statement released by police on Saturday.

"I did not realize that it will become an issue at such a large scale. My sincere apologies to my family, friends, the RCMP and overall community – whose feelings I have hurt in this whole ordeal. I have to work very hard to rebuild the trust I lost."

NRI Sikh teen's hair cut off in beating
Police, community leader appeal for calm after hate crime

RICHMOND, June 1, 2005
Vancouver Sun

Richmond police and Sikh leaders are asking for public calm in the wake of a violent and racially motivated attack on a 17-year-old Indo-Canadian youth last week in a school park.

According to police, the victim was jumped and viciously beaten by five Caucasian men in their early 20s as he was walking home through school playing fields outside Grauer elementary at around 5:15 p.m. Thursday.

NRI youth, a baptized Sikh, had his turban torn off in the assault and a portion of his long hair cut off by one of the thugs, who used an Exacto knife.

According to Shinder Purewal, a Sikh and professor at Kwantlen University College, unshorn hair is considered by Sikh faithful to be an integral part of the human body.

"Cutting the hair would be equivalent to chopping off a body part," Purewal said.

Richmond RCMP Cpl. Peter Thiessen called the attack on the youth "absolutely disgusting" and vowed at a press conference Tuesday that police will hunt down the people responsible.

"We're working with the [youth's] family -- they're absolutely devastated by this," Thiessen said.

Thiessen said police are investigating the incident as a hate crime, as defined under the Criminal Code.

"It's one thing to assault and rob someone," he said, "but this takes things to a whole other level."

Thiessen said the suspects were playing basketball in the courts behind Grauer elementary when the teen victim walked by. They called out a racial slur, then ran after him and punched him several times in the head.

Thiessen said the victim believes an X-Acto knife was held to his throat while he was kicked in the side and robbed of his wallet and personal papers, while the thieves demanded money and marijuana.

The victim, a student at Hugh Boyd secondary, ran home and called police.

Thiessen said the teen was taken to hospital, but did not suffer serious physical injuries.

Police are now worried retaliation may be on the minds of some members of the Sikh community as news of the assault -- and its violation of Sikh religious beliefs -- travels.

"We certainly need the Sikh community to remain calm and not to overreact to this," Thiessen said.

Balwant Sanghera, spokesman for the Sikh Society of the Lower Mainland, said the incident has "traumatized" Richmond's Sikh community.

"I think the people who committed this heinous crime need help," he said.

"This is not human."

Sanghera joined Thiessen in asking members of his religious community to leave matters in the hands of police.

"I'm not sure at this time how the community is going to react. It's a very serious thing," he said. "We have some young men who may get a little too excited."

But Purewal said a backlash from the Sikh community is unlikely.

"It was unnecessary to appeal for such things," Purewal said of the public call for peace.

"Sure, people get shocked when you hear of this kind of violent incident, but to expect the community to react is blowing things out of proportion.

"I don't think there will be people going out there seeking revenge."

Anyone who may have seen the suspects playing basketball Thursday afternoon or may know something about the attack is asked to call Const. Mike Bhatti at 604-278-1212, local 2202.


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