Popular Sikh Man Slain in Temple

January 25, 2000

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle

On January 25, 2000, The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Ajmer Singh Malhi, a 48-year-old Sikh man who was a popular teacher at Skyline High School in Oakland, California, was killed by a fellow Sikh during temple services at Gurdwara Sahib in El Sobrante, CA on Sunday, January 23rd. Joga Singh Sandher, a 35-year-old Sikh man from San Lorenza, CA, killed Malhi because he was upset that Malhi, in his role as temple secretary, prevented him from addressing the congregation. Sandher had addressed the congregation one week earlier, and temple members reported that his statements were incoherent and random.

Malhi was known by students, colleagues, and those in the Sikh community as a peacemaker. He had an ability to quell disputes in the classroom as a teacher, in the teaching profession by serving as the chief negotiator in the Oakland Education Association union, and in his temple community as the temple secretary. Sheila Quintana, president of the Oakland teachers union, stated: "I can't believe someone like (Malhi), who was devoted to peace, died so viciously...In fact, we gave him the nickname 'Holy Man' because he was the ultimate peacemaker." Professor Gurinder Singh Mann, chairman of Sikh Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, emphasized that the incident has nothing to do with Sikh tenets or faith: "This is a very specific event, where one person goes out of control...The overwhelming majority of Sikhs in the United States are hard-working and trying to make their place in society."