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Bullet hole remains in Sikh temple 10 years after massacre – as community tries to ‘build around the wound’

A decade on from a mass shooting at a Wisconsin Sikh temple, the son of one of the victims has told Sky News that not enough is being done to keep the community safe.

On 5 August 2012, the Sikh community of Oak Creek came under attack when white supremacist Wade Page stormed a Gurdwara in Wisconsin and gunned down six worshippers, before shooting himself dead.

A seventh person who was severely paralysed died from his injuries in 2020.

Among the victims was the president of the temple, Satwant Singh Kaleka.

Satwant Singh Kaleka was shot at the age of 65

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Satwant Singh Kaleka

The 65-year-old used a butter knife – the only weapon he could find – to challenge Page.

His actions may have created a distraction which allowed several people to escape the area unharmed, however he sustained gunshot wounds in the process.

FBI agents described Mr Kaleka as “a hero” for fighting to the death while protecting others.

His son, Pardeep Singh Kaleka, told Sky News “we’re continuing to build around the wound in the community”.

He has become a key anti-hate crime activist in the area through his engagement in community work. He said the most important thing to him is that “we keep pushing for a society free from bigotry and hate”.

Pardeep is calling for a ‘society approach’ to cut hate crime Pic: Angela Major

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Pardeep Singh Kaleka is calling for a ‘society approach’ to cut hate crime. Pic: Angela Major

He said: “Not enough has been done to keep communities like ours safe”, adding: “That’s why we continue to advocate for change”.

“I’m trying to prevent the next Wade Page out there from hurting any community.”

He continued: “Justice will only be served when we build a society where hate and violence are less likely.

“We have rebuilt our Gurdwara and will use the sword of compassion to build a more just society.”

A bullet hole remains on a door frame at the Sikh temple.

A plaque below it reads “We are one” – a key Sikh principle.

Sikh hate crime on the rise

The FBI began tracking anti-Sikh hate crimes and bias incidents after the attack.

The testimony of Harpreet Singh Saini (then 18 years old), who lost his mother at Oak Creek, encouraged them to do so, says Sikh Coalition, a Sikh-American advocacy group.

Harpreet Singh Saini, whose mother was killed in the shooting, testified at a hearing on hate crimes in 2012

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Harpreet Singh Saini testified at a hearing on hate crimes in 2012

However, hate crime reporting is not mandatory in the United States, so the available data “is an undercount of the actual number of hate crimes”, it said.

Mr Saini, who testified in 2012, has called on Congress this week to “take action today on three pieces of legislation to counter the kind of hate we face”.

The most recent FBI data, published in 2021, shows that anti-Sikh hate crimes hit a record high of 89 documented incidents in 2020, reflecting an 82% increase on 2019, despite an overall decrease in the number of anti-religious hate crimes.

This year has also seen multiple attacks on Sikhs, including two assaults in New York within 10 days.

The Oak Creek Massacre killed seven worshippers. Pic: Sikh Coalition

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The massacre saw seven worshippers killed. Pic: Sikh Coalition

Events in place to commemorate 10-year anniversary

The Oak Creek Sikh community will be hosting a series of events to commemorate the anniversary, including a candlelight vigil and a community event defining the spirit of “chardi kala” – eternal resilience, optimism and joy.

The mayor of Oak Creek, Daniel Bukiewicz, told Sky News that officials including members of the Department of Justice and Homeland Security will attend.

Mayor Daniel Bukiewicz gets a turban tied at the Chardi Kala community event. Pic: Leslie Flynn

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Mayor Daniel Bukiewicz gets a turban tied at a community event. Pic: Leslie Flynn

“The incident not only shook Oak Creek but all of Wisconsin and the Sikh community around the world,” he said.

“I have experienced that the feelings and beliefs of the Sikhs are one of unity and acceptance.”

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