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Violent Assault On Sikh Bus Driver Now Being Treated As A Hate Crime

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Balwinder Jit Singh is a Metro Bus operator. (Courtesy the Sikh Coalition)
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While driving his bus down Manchester Boulevard in South Los Angeles last November, Balwinder Jit Singh was attacked by a passenger who, as the bus was running, pummeled the driver in his seat while shouting racial slurs. After pressure from civil rights groups, the attack is now being treated as a hate crime.Singh is Sikh, and was at the time of the attack was wearing a traditional Sikh turban. Consequently, he was berated with accusations that he was a terrorist, had hijacked the bus, and was a suicide bomber, according to the L.A. Times.

The attacker, 34-year-old KC Tard Jr., faces one felony count of battery with injury on transit personnel for the November 6 attack.

Tard originally boarded Singh's bus at the intersection of Manchester Boulevard and Western Avenue. He paid his fare, but then began started yelling racial slurs at Singh. The driver ordered Tard off his bus at Crenshaw and Manchester, but Tard came back onto the bus and began punching and scratching Singh on his face.

Singh kept his foot on the bus' brake during the attack, keeping the vehicle with 20-25 passengers from drifting into traffic. When Tard left, a passenger called the police and Singh was taken to the hospital.

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Back in November, Tard was originally only charged with a misdemeanor unconnected to Singh's race and religion. Worried the L.A County Sheriff's Department was not taking the attack seriously, the Sikh Coalition announced in January they believed the attack should be investigated as a hate-crime, according to NBC.

"We cannot fight hate if law enforcement agencies ignore or fail to recognize hate crimes," Sikh Coalition senior staff attorney Gurjot Kaur said at the time.

Eight other civil-rights groups joined the Sikh Coalition, publishing a public letter to The L.A. County Sheriff's Department saying the agency must investigate the attack as a hate crime. Prosecutors announced Wednesday the attack will now be considered a hate crime.

Last December, a Sikh Temple in Buena Park was vandalized with tags saying “Fuck ISIS” and “Islahm.” Since 9/11, Sikh’s have frequently been discriminated against as Muslims, bigots apparently unwise and unconcerned about the differences between the two religions.

Violence against bus operators has also increased over the past couple years. In 2012, Metro documented a total of 79 assaults against transit operators. In 2014 that number was 141, and 2015 saw 155.