Early Sunday morning, Sikh cab driver Harkirat Singh was attacked by a drunken passenger who called him “Ali Baba” and stole his turban, according to the New York Daily News. The attack occurred just hours after the annual Sikh celebration of Vaisakhi. The NYPD is investigating the assault as a possible hate crime.
Singh says he picked up a drunken party of three men and a woman around 5 a.m. near Madison Square Garden in New York City. They instructed him to take them to a location in the Bronx.
When they arrived at the intersection, the group complained they were at the wrong destination. Singh says the passengers were so intoxicated they couldn’t tell him where to go next.
“The girl’s saying, ‘Take the right.’ The Spanish guy’s saying, ‘Take the left.’ So, at that time, I was confused,” he says.
At this point, the passengers started using expletives and banging on the partition in the cab. Singh recalls, “They’re using bad words, also. They said, ‘Ali Baba, f**k you.’”
Singh then pulled the cab over and told the group to pay their $41.76 fare and find another ride. While the woman paid the fare, Singh dialed 911.
The passengers got out, but one of the men returned. He tried to break the meter and punched Singh in the arm.
“After that, he picked off my turban from my head,” Singh says. “He wanted to snatch my phone also.”
Scared, Singh pleaded with the man. “Why are you doing this, brother? We can sit. We can talk,” he recalls saying.
“At that time, I’m so afraid,” he says. “They can do anything to me. They’re gonna kill me.”
The group ran off when they realized police were on their way but took Singh’s turban with them, which is an important symbol of his faith.
Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted his disgust over the incident.
The aftermath of the event runs deeper for Singh, who says he is now afraid to take night shifts.
“I’m so afraid. I don’t want to work,” Singh says. “It’s an insult on my religion, also, an insult to my faith. It’s horrible.”