Tota Singh, Minister for NRI Affairs in Punjab State Government, was the target of wrath by hundreds of Sikhs in Richmond Hill, Queens, NY on July 19 who hurled him abuses as well as shoes for his alleged inaction to convict police officers involved in extra-judicial killings of thousands of innocent Sikhs during counter-insurgency operations in early 1990s
Tota Singh and other leaders from his Akali Dal Party were scheduled to address a meeting at Richmond Hill. But before that could take place hundreds of Sikhs protesting the visit and chanting slogans gathered at the venue, surrounding surrounded the area, according to group Sikhs for Justice, a Sikh rights monitor. New York police took to people to custody.
According to newspaper reports, the standoff between the Sikhs and Singh’s delegation continued for more than three hours and a heavy contingent of the New York Police was summoned at the scene.
“The North American Sikh groups are opposing the Akali Dal party for its failure to convict police officers involved in extra-judicial killings of thousands of innocent Sikhs during counter-insurgency operations in early 1990s,” SFJ legal advisor Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said.
Tota Singh led a delegation to the United States and Canada to garner support of the Punjabi Diaspora for the 2017 state Assembly elections.
“We will not allow Akali leaders to visit America and challenge those Sikhs who oppose Akali policies and have taken political asylum for their political views,” organizer of the protest rally Himmat Singh said, according to Indian newspaper reports.
The ruling Akali Dal said in a statement in state capital Chandigarh that the attack in New York was an act of “frustration” by some “vested interests” who do not want the Akalis to paint a true picture of Punjab abroad. In an apparent bid to get political mileage the opposition Congress party described the incident as “manifestation of the anger that NRI Punjabis, particularly the Sikhs, have against Badal (current state chief minister) and his government for their hollow promises and failure on all fronts.”