racist graffiti

Racist graffiti appeared outside the Guru Maneyo Granth Gurdwara Sahib in Orangevale, California, on Jan. 13 morning. The gurdwara is about a month old, Indian American realtor and insurance agent Inderjit Singh Kallarai, who attended prayers there day earlier, told India-West. (Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund photo)

A swastika and the words “White Power” were found spray-painted Jan. 13 morning at the entrance to the Guru Maneyo Granth Gurdwara Sahib in Orangevale, California.

At press time, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, which covers Orangevale and surrounding areas, had not returned India-West’s calls as to whether it was investigating the possible hate crime.

The gurdwara opened its doors about a month ago, after purchasing the land last summer, local Indian American activist Inderjit Singh Kallarai told India-West.

Kallarai, an insurance agent and realtor, had attended prayer services at the gurdwara the day before — a Sunday — and said the facility was packed with more than 300 people who had come for the official opening of the facility and to hear prominent priest Bhai Sahib Harjinder Singh Ji Sri Nagarwale. The temple opening was a three-day affair, which began Jan. 10.

The gurdwara is located in a rural neighborhood, with four other places of worship close by. Kallarai said it was likely that vandals had spray-painted their hate speech the night before.

According to the Sikh Legal Defense and Education Fund, the graffiti was discovered by the gurdwara’s priest, Manjit Singh. Local law enforcement came out to the site, and took statements from Singh.

After documenting the graffiti, police immediately painted over the hate speech, according to SALDEF.

Kallarai said he hopes the FBI will get involved in the possible bias-motivated incident. However, he believes “It is in the community’s best interest to engage, not prosecute.”

In a press statement, Dimple Kaur Bhullar, speaking on behalf of the gurdwara, said the ceremonies were conducted without disturbance. “There was no negativity before this,” she added.

“We are seeing a rise in hate crimes committed by white supremacist groups and we condemn them all,” said SALDEF executive director Kiran Kaur Gill in a press statement.

“When we see our peaceful places of worship attacked, it creates a fear among the community, and we cannot stand by and allow our brothers and sisters to be afraid to gather at our houses of worship,” she stated.

Surprisingly, the state of California, long characterized as ultra-progressive, leads the nation in the number of hate groups located within the state, according to data from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has consistently tracked the jump in hate crimes. In 2017, the SPLC identified 79 hate groups in California and ranked the state as number one in the nation for most active hate groups. In 2018, SPLC reported there were 83 hate groups in California.

In Sacramento, according to SPLC, the hate groups include the Pacific Justice Institute; the Sacramento Skins; Save California, which is anti-LGBTQ; As-Sabiqun; and the European-American Evangelistic Crusades.

Previous hate crimes in the area have targeted the Jewish community: anti-Semitic posters were left at an Orangevale synagogue in 2017, chastising film producer Harvey Weinstein; and lauding Dylann Roof, the young white supremacist who in 2015 killed nine African American parishioners attending services at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. In the poster, Roof is shown holding an American flag. Language on the poster read, “Dylann Roof did nothing wrong.”

Twenty years ago, three synagogues in Sacramento were targets of arson by white supremacists. And in 2007, Indian American Satender Singh was beaten to death near Lake Notoma by Andrey Vusik, who uttered racist and homophobic slurs as he beat Singh. Vusik then fled the country.

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