A 20-year-old man has been arrested and charged with hate crime for a brutal assault on a Sikh professor last year during which the attackers called him "Osama" and a "terrorist" in the United States.
The police arrested Christian Morales on Friday night and charged him with aggravated harassment and committing a hate crime in connection with the attack on Prabhjot Singh, a professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.
Morales was produced in court on Saturday. While the investigation is still ongoing, he is the only person in custody, the New York Police Department said. Singh was assaulted last September by a group of 20-30 young men while he was walking in the Harlem neighbourhood.
The father of one had been "brutally attacked" and was rushed to the hospital with severe bruising, swelling, small puncture in his elbow and fracture in his lower jaw.
While in hospital, Singh had told the police that his assailants had taunted him and beat him, calling him "Osama" and "terrorist" as they pulled at his long beard. He was repeatedly punched in the face and head.
Singh was returning from dinner, dropping his wife and one-year-old son at home before going for a walk. While being attacked, he saw one of the assailants put his arm inside his coat as if reaching for a gun.
Addressing a press conference days after the attack, Singh had said he would want his attackers to visit the Gurudwara and interact with members of the community to better understand the Sikh faith.
"If I could speak to my attackers, I would ask them if they had any questions, if they knew what they were doing. May be invite them to the Gurudwara where we worship, get to know who we are... Make sure they have an opportunity to move past this as well," Singh had said.
The New York police had released a survellaince video of the suspects believed to be involved in the attack. The grainy clip showed a group of young 15-20 suspects riding their bikes shortly before they encountered Singh as he walking with a friend.
Singh, who has lived in the city for 10 years, had said he would not be deterred from his goal of engaging with communities to educate and uplift people to make them become better human beings.
There is need to understand "who gave these kids the green light to hate." "These sort of things are not who we are. This is not an America that I recognise," he had said.
In 2012, Singh had written an op-ed in the New York Times days after six Sikh persons were killed in a tragic shooting at a Wisconsin Gurudwara in August. "We must do away with a flawed and incomplete assumption of 'mistaken identity' regarding Sikhs; until we do, we will all be the ones who are mistaken," he had written in the op-ed titled 'How Hate Gets Counted.’
Image: Prabhjot Singh, the professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.