'This tragedy was all too personal': Metro Detroit Sikhs honor victims of Indiana shooting

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

Plymouth — The solemn gaze on Heminder Singh's face told half the story. The placard he held Sunday with the names of four of the eight souls lost in a shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis told the rest.

Among the dead late Thursday were four Sikhs, a religious community from India with a presence in the U.S. and Metro Detroit, and it prompted those like Singh to honor them in a solidarity vigil in front of a temple of worship.

It also was a call for an end to gun violence and anger aimed at them because of their presence in American society.

"This an extremely tragic event for all of us as the Sikh community and the whole country," said Singh, 61, of West Bloomfield Township, who joined nearly 50 others honoring the fallen at the Gurdwara Sahib Mata Tripta in Plymouth.

"We're hoping and praying for the families of all the people we've lost," he said. "We have a lot of compassion for the family of the person who caused the loss of life. We believe staying positive no matter what the circumstances are."

The safety of Sikhs, Singh said, "is a concern because of our appearance and our identity because way too many incidents have happened over the years."

Bhai Iqbar Singh, right, offers a prayer as people from the Sikh community and others gather at a solidarity vigil at Plymouth Gurdwara Sahib in Plymouth, Michigan, on April 18, 2021.

About 90% of the workers at the FedEx warehouse near the Indianapolis International Airport are members of the local Sikh community, according to Indiana authorities.

People in attendance made reference to a 2012 shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin where six people were killed, a troubling trend they say targets their community for teasing and violence based on the turbans males wear or the way they look.

Those of the Sikh faith, of which there are an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 families in the region, held lit candles that dripped on the pavement on a brilliant sunny day, and prayed for peace and an end to gun violence.

Raman Singh, 55, of West Bloomfield Township reads the names of the victims of the Indianapolis shooting.

Raman Singh, 55, of West Bloomfield Township, said given the shooting in Indiana and the violence against Sikhs in the past, "it doesn't seem like that much has changed."

"This tragedy was all too personal for us. It took place in another Midwestern town not too different than ours," she said. "And the names of the victims could have been the names of our own friends and family."

Ramandeep Sidhu, 54, of South Lyon, Amisha Datta, 22, and her brother, Aniketh Datta, 18, both of Novi have their candles lit by Gurjinder Singh, 52, of Lansing at a Sikh solidarity vigil at Plymouth Gurdwara Sahib in Plymouth, Mich. on April 18, 2021.

Dilbag Singh, 51, president of the gurdwara in Plymouth, called the shooting a "very tragic incident and very sad."

These types of gun violence and shootings aren't "good for anybody, especially when it was known" that the man who killed the others and himself had a fragile mental state and his mother had warned the authorities prior, Singh said.

"I think we need more (gun) checks in order to keep a check on such killings," he said. "It's not just this incident. We know it happened in Colorado. It happened in Atlanta. I think we all need to come together and put our minds on it so that there can be more checks so that people which are not in their good mental state shouldn't be able to keep all these arms."

Ramandeep Sidhu, left, 54, of South Lyon watches as Amisha Datta, 22, and her brother, Aniketh Datta, 18, have their candles lit by their mother, Somlika Datta, 48, of Novi.

State Rep. Ranjeev Puri, D-Canton Township, decried the loss of "more victims to gun violence."

"Government action is absolutely necessary that these things can absolutely be prevented," he said to the crowd. "And our country has a problem. In just this month, this is the 45th mass shooting in this country. No American should live in fear. And Sikhs unfortunately are disproportionately affected, whether it's because of their faith, the way they look or just who we are."

These issues," he added, "are only brought to light when it's too late."

That needs to change, Puri said, to a community that "remains largely invisible."


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