Indiana Daily Student

IU Sikh students speak out against hate at vigil for Indianapolis shooting victims

Freshman Mohkm Singh lights candles before the Sikh Student Association’s vigil begins Sunday in front of the Sample Gates. The vigil was in honor of the victims of the Indianapolis FedEx shooting.
Freshman Mohkm Singh lights candles before the Sikh Student Association’s vigil begins Sunday in front of the Sample Gates. The vigil was in honor of the victims of the Indianapolis FedEx shooting.

When IU freshman Mohkm Singh learned eight people were shot and killed in Indianapolis April 15, he immediately thought of gun violence, racism, and most of all, hate in the United States.

“Four of them were my Sikh brethren,” he said. “Unfortunately, hate is something that exists far too much in our world.”

About 30 people, mostly IU students, held candles up high to mourn the victims of the Indianapolis mass shooting Sunday evening at Sample Gates as a bouquet of orange flowers lay next to the cream and crimson tulips. The Sikh Student Association organized the vigil.

A gunman identified by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department as Brandon Scott Hole killed eight people and injured five at the FedEx Ground Plainfield Operations Center before dying by suicide. This was the third mass shooting this year in Indianapolis and the deadliest in the city in at least 15 years. Four of the eight people killed were members of the local Sikh community, according to Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett.

The eight victims were: Matthew R. Alexander, 32, Samaria Blackwell, 19, Amarjeet Johal, 66, Jasvinder Kaur, 50, Jaswinder Singh, 68, Amarjit Sekhon, 48, Karli Smith, 19, and John Weisert, 74, according to an IMPD press release on April 16. The New York Times reported that three Sikh victims’ family and friends provided different spellings of names and ages for Amarjit Sekhon, 49, and Jaswinder Kaur Singh, 70.

Ravleen Ahuja, co-president of the Sikh Student Association at IU, said the shooting brought “confusion, shock, trauma and anger.”

“An attack on any marginalized community is gut-wrenching and heartbreaking, and as a Sikh in Indiana, this event particularly hit close to home,” she said.

Ahuja said members of the Sikh community must stay strong, speak out against hateful attacks and stay in “chardi kala,” or relentless and eternal optimism.

“We hold the power to create a safe and productive space for our friends and family, a place that the victims of the shooting did not have, unfortunately,” she said.

Attendees bowed their heads in silence after Ahuja read the eight victims’ names.

SSA co-President Taveen Saran said the mass shooting underscores a pattern of violence against the Sikh community in the U.S., referencing the 2012 mass shooting in which a gunman killed six people in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

“I think hate creates a monster, and the accessibility to guns allows for that monster to act upon that hate and those feelings of bigotry and pure hatred towards others for no reason,” she said.

Sophomore Taveen Saran speaks Sunday in front of the Sample Gates during a vigil for the victims of the Indianapolis FedEx shooting. The Sikh Student Association sponsored the event. Ethan Moore

SSA Freshman Representative Mohkm Singh said the root cause of gun violence in America is hate, something inherently inhuman.

“The way to combat hate is through love, through revolutionary love,” Singh said, referencing the Revolutionary Love Project by Sikh-American activist Valarie Kaur.

Freshman Mohkm Singh lights candles before the Sikh Student Association’s vigil begins Sunday in front of the Sample Gates. A crowd of about 35 people attended the vigil. Ethan Moore

Indiana State Sen. Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington, attended the vigil. She said there is much work to do to fight gun violence.

“We need to do our jobs to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can to combat gun violence,” she said.

Indiana Sen. Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington, holds up a battery operated candle during the Sikh Student Association’s vigil Sunday in front of the Sample Gates. “I wanted to extend to the Sikh community that my heart is broken,” Yoder said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.” Ethan Moore

SSA Vice President Angad Singh said learning about the Indianapolis shooting was a tough experience. He said he was confused how Hole could legally obtain the rifles he used in the mass shooting after police had confiscated his shotgun in 2020 and the FBI had interviewed him after discovering he had been browsing white supremacist websites on his computer.

“We do need stricter laws,” he said. “A gun, it gives someone who has a lot of hate an easy method to kill a lot of people in a short amount of time.”

Singh said he was 10 when the 2012 Sikh temple shooting took place and remembered feeling confused about why Sikhs were subjected to such violence. He said he now understands more about gun violence and hate.

“I was confused by it and I couldn’t understand it, and now I fully understand what's going on,” he said.

Ethan Moore contributed reporting.

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