Top US lawmakers pay tribute to Balbir Singh Sodhi
FILE PHOTO: Balbir Singh Sodhi
TOP US lawmakers have paid rich tributes to Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh American, who was the first victim of hate crime following the 9/11 terror attacks.
Four days after 9/11, Balbir was killed outside the Arizona gas station he owned. He was the first person in the US to be killed in a supposed act of retaliation for the attacks in 2001.
“Today marks 20 Years Since Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh man, was killed in a hate crime in retribution for the 9/11 attacks. We honour his memory and the memories of all those lost to hate in the two decades since,” Senator Robert Menendez said in a tweet.
“Twenty years ago, Sikh American Balbir Singh Sodhi was murdered in the first post 9/11 hate crime. He was shot to death while planting flowers outside his gas station in Mesa, Arizona, by a man who said he wanted to “go out and shoot some towel-heads,” said Senator Dick Durbin.
Congresswomen Lois Frankel said days after 9/11, Balbir, a Sikh man, was killed in ‘retribution’ for the attacks.
“Today, we honour Balbir’s memory–and celebrate 20 years of solidarity and advocacy among the communities that continue to persevere against hate and discrimination,” she said.
Sodhi moved to the US in the late 1980s with a number of his brothers, who left Punjab after a series of anti-Sikh programmes following the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
The gas station, opened only a year before his death, became a symbol of the family’s toil. Balbir built the business himself with money he had saved since arriving in the US.
Senator Sherrod Brown said 20 years ago today, Balbir, a Sikh American, was murdered for his appearance.
“His death marked the first deadly post-9/11 hate crime. Today and every day, let’s stand united with our Sikh community in Ohio and reject hate and discrimination,” he tweeted.
“Days after 9/11, Sikh American Balbir Singh Sodhi was killed in the apparent first ‘retribution’ hate crime following the attacks. Today, we honour his memory & remain united in our efforts to fend off all forms of hate & discrimination,” tweeted Senator Richard Blumenthal.
“Balbir Singh Sodhi, a turbaned Sikh man, was killed in a hate crime in retribution for the 9/11 attacks 20 years ago today. I stand in solidarity with New Jersey’s Sikh community as we honor his memory & the memories of all those lost to hate in the two decades since,” said Congressman Donald Norcross.
Sodhi’s killer Frank Roque is serving life in prison.
In a recent statement, his brother Rana Singh Sodhi said: “We all humans are equal – colour, creed and gender. To honour my brother, if you love your neighbours, if you respect people with different colour, creed and gender, it will be a big honour to my brother”.