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Oak Creek advocates for peace on 10th anniversary of Sikh Temple shooting

<i>WDJT</i><br/>It's been 10 years since a gunman carrying out a hate crime and opened fire inside the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. Seven people were killed.
WDJT
WDJT
It's been 10 years since a gunman carrying out a hate crime and opened fire inside the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. Seven people were killed.

By Tajma Hall

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    OAK CREEK, Wisconsin (WDJT) — It’s been 10 years since a gunman carrying out a hate crime and opened fire inside the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. Seven people were killed.

On the 10th anniversary, events are being held throughout the weekend to bring the community together, while honoring the victims.

“Often folks forget what happened here, but I think it’s really important to honor Oak Creek and remember what happened here and also come together wherever you are to stand in solidarity against hare and violence,” said Community Development Director of the Sikh Coalition, Rucha Kuer.

Pardeep Singh Kaleka is the executive director of the Interfaith Conference and was directly impacted by the shooting. His father, Satwant Singh Kaleka was killed that day.

Now, Pardeep has dedicated his life to advocating for peace. He’s even co-authored a book with a former white supremacist.

“With tragedy comes this opportunity to educate,” he said.

Pardeep’s father was the temple president.

“When he passed, I think what he stood for and what he embodied we just couldn’t let that die,” he said.

Pardeep believes his father would be proud of the work that’s been done since his death.

The Sikh community is ending today’s day of remembrance with lights on top of the temple – a temporary tribute to the seven lives lost – and inside, with something else that will be here for years to come.

“This was an act of hatred. This was an act of hate crime and we didn’t want to follow that path of the killer,” said Rahul Dubey, godfather Satwant Singh Kaleka was killed.

In ten years time, the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin has erased most of the visible memories.

“It has been repainted. All the shots and everything has been gone, but there’s one bullet shot we have kept and that’s a remembrance for us,” said Dubey.

When Rahul Dubey sees this bullet hole, he thinks of the incredible kindness his community showed after the shooting. He calls it “chardhikala.”

“Relentless optimism from tragedy to triumph,” said Dubey.

Outside the temple we met Kamaljit Saini, who still carries his mother’s photo in his wallet.

“My mom was full of love and it’s unfortunate that she had to die in the way that she did,” said Kamaljit Saini, mother Paramjit Kaur was killed.

Wade Michael Page killed Saini’s mother and six men. Saini is now a police officer, after being inspired by the bravery of Oak Creek police Lt. Brian Murphy, who stopped the gunman in his tracks.

Governor Evers took the stage here, honoring the victims’ families with a proclamation, and saying hate has no place in Wisconsin.

“On behalf of a grateful community and a grateful state we see you, we honor you and you are so cherished,” Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers told the crowd.

Mourners came from near and far. These men rode all the way from the country’s oldest Sikh Temple in California, spreading love along the way.

“Stopped in gas stations, stopped in small towns, talked to people whoever met us, whoever said hi,” said Didheh Singh, president of the Sikh motorcycle group.

A couple of setbacks didn’t stop the group – a flat tire in Iowa and extreme heat in Arizona.

“We just need to work a little bit and we will get rid of the hate against each other or any community,” said Singh.

“I think we need days and events like this to remind people that ignorance will never win, you know hate will never win,” said Saini.

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