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Sikh mayor in New Jersey got threatening letters

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Sikh mayor in New Jersey got threatening letters

New York: The Sikh mayor of a city in the US state of New Jersey has said that he has received a series of hate-filled letters via email threatening to kill him and his family if he doesn’t resign, a media report said.

Ravi Bhalla, who became the first Sikh to be elected as mayor of Hoboken City in November 2017, told CBS News on Tuesday that the first letter, which was sent more than a year ago, called on him to resign.

While the second letter threatened his life, it was the third letter, which came soon after the second, that shook Bhalla and his family.

“This is your last warning. If you don’t resign immediately, we will kill you, we’ll kill your wife, we’ll kill your children,” the contents of the third letter read.

Another letter read, “It’s time to kill you”, the news report said, adding that the rest of the content was too disturbing to share.

“There was a lot of angst, anger, a lot of hate, combined with actual threats upon my life and the life of my children and my wife,” Bhalla, living in Hoboken for 22 years, said.

The law enforcement agencies have provided Bhalla with 24-hour security, including for his two children, aged 15 and 11, at school.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Bhalla told CBS News that during the same time, his neighbours, his brother and a few city colleagues also began receiving packages with sexually-explicit and threatening materials.

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While the person responsible for those was caught and charged, the person behind the threatening letters is still at large, acording to Bhalla.

Asserting that hate is not welcome in the city, Bhalla said he would stand strong against hate and is “very proud to lead the city as an American of Sikh background”.

Being aware of the backlash Sikh-Americans endured after 9/11, Bhalla said that “there still is a strain of extremism in America, and it’s just unfortunate to see that small strain is somewhere in Hoboken, as well”.

And I think that’s what needs to be called out and that’s what people need to know about so that we can eventually put an end to it through education and through love,” he said.

Bhalla’s remarks came as a 19-year-old Sikh was punched multiple times in a racially-motivated attack and attempt was made to remove his turban on board a bus in New York City last week.

According to a new FBI data released on Monday, Sikhs still remain the second most targeted group under religiously motivated hate crime incidents with 198 cases of anti-Sikh hate crime victimisations recorded in 2022.

Bhalla first set his roots in Hoboken at the age of 26, “a bachelor fresh out of law school starting his first job at a small law firm in Newark, New Jersey”, according to his website profile.

He specialised as a civil rights lawyer, earning national recognition from The New York Times for his legal advocacy after suffering a violation of his own constitutional and civil rights during a jail visit to a client.

The incident motivated Bhalla to lead a successful campaign to reform the federal government’s visitation policies at correctional facilities nationwide.

He served for eight years on the Hoboken City Council before becoming the mayor, and is now contemplating running against first-term Congressman Rob Menendez from New Jersey’s 8th district.

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