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Indianapolis mass shooting haunts Oak Creek Temple

Photos courtesy Oak Creek Sikh Temple

Top L-R: Suveg Singh Khattra, Sita Singh, Satwant Singh Kakleka

Bottom L-R: Ranjit Singh, Prakash Singh and Paramjit Kaur

By Louis Chan, AsAmNews National Correspondent

Pardeep Kaleka has unfortunately experienced trauma such as the mass shooting at a Fed Ex facility in Indianapolis once before.

Baba Punjab Singh

His father, Satwant Singh Kaleka, is one of 7 people who died after gunman shot up a temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin killing six people in 2012. A 7th person, Baba Punjab Singh, died from his injuries sustained in that shooting in 2020 after being in a vegetative state for almost eight years.

In Indianapolis, eight people were killed, including four from the Sikh community.

“I don’t have the luxury of grieving or being sad,” said Kaleka to AsAmNews about the Fed Ex shooting. “You have to go to a place where you have to do the work.”

He called for a serious discussion about gun violence and what hate looks like. He says most of these mass shootings have been carried out by men and boys, pointing out the shooter in Indianapolis was just 19. He says society needs to teach how to cope with rejection.

He says authorities in Indianapolis need to investigate this as a hate crime until “it can be ruled out.”

“There were a lot of Sikhs who worked at this facility. This person had severe mental health issues, but just having those issues doesn’t make a person violent.”

The shooter, Brandon Scott Hole, worked at that facility until last year. The FBI had interviewed him and took away his firearm because his parents had warned authorities he may try to die by suicide by cop. He killed himself after shooting his eight victims.

The Indianapolis incident comes during a rise of anti-Asian hate and just one month after six Asian American women were among the eight people killed at three spas in Atlanta.

Kaleka suspects that funerals for the eight victims will be delayed as authorities won’t be able to release the bodies as the investigation will come first.

Once that body is released, there will be a baath or funeral for the Sikh victims.

“There’s a showing, Kaleka said. “There’s a prayer over the person for them to transition peacefully. Then the cremation. Traditionally in western society, there’s a burial. In Sikh society there’s a cremation.”

RELATED: Fifth anniversary of Oak Creek Massacre remembered

Kaleka is the Executive Director of the Interfaith Conference in Greater Milwaukee. He’s already been in touch with Sikh leaders in Indianapolis where he says there are five Sikh temples. He predicts they will need to coordinate the logistics for the baaths as well as the collection of donations to make sure the money goes to the victims families.

“There’s an emotional toll on the entire Sikh community over there. The road to recovery is going to be a long journey. Long after the cameras and press leave, these families are going to have to pick up the pieces.”

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