ELK GROVE, CA - Brutal and deadly attacks against Sikhs throughout the region, and the state, have gone untracked by the FBI.
The federal government has had no way of determining how many hate crimes have been committed against Sikhs, nor how serious those attacks were, but now, that's changing.
The FBI will begin officially identifying hate crimes perpetrated against Sikhs, as well as Hindus, Buddhists, Mormons and other religious groups.
Many leaders in the Sikh Community said that's a critical move.
"Since 9/11, Sikhs have been attacked, murdered, across the country. Here in Elk Grove. I've assisted families in West Sacramento. And none of these were recorded," said Amar Shergill with the Sacramento Sikh Temple.
It's been more than two years since two elderly Sikh men were shot and killed in a drive-by shooting in Elk Grove. Gurmej Atwal, 78, and his friend 65-year-old Surinder Singh were out for their regular afternoon stroll in March 2011, when someone drove by and shot them to death. That hate crime case remains unsolved.
"Yeah, it hurts. It makes us sad. But, We can't be angry you know," Gurmej Atwal's son Kamaljit Atwal said.
Now, thanks to the efforts of a number of community leaders and members of Congress, the FBI will begin tracking such hate crimes committed against Sikhs.
"By giving us data that we can now take to lawmakers and policy makers and say, 'these are the crimes that are affecting our community,' we have information to figure out a solution," said Winty Singh, a volunteer advocate with The Sikh Coalition. "Once you have the ability to measure something, you know what's going on. From there you can dedicate the resources."
Singh said it took the Oak Creek terrorist in Wisconsin to open everybody's eyes to the issue.
"It was along process, but we're happy the change was made," Winty said.
"It's surprising that it took like 12 years after 9/11," said Atwal about tracking crimes against Sikhs. But, he said he's happy to hear about the FBI move.
"It's very important to track, to profile any crime, regardless if you are Sikh or any other religion," Atwal said. "We wish it wouldn't happen again. We hope it would not happen again."
By Suzanne Phan, firstname.lastname@example.org