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US Sikh sues airline for harassment over turban

PTI, India
Sep. 17, 2003
Dharam Shourie • Thursday September 18, 2003

New York, Sept. 17: A Sikh businessman has filed a lawsuit against a major airline, its affiliate and a flight attendant alleging racial profiling, intimidation and harassment during a routine commercial flight for sporting a beard and turban.

This is first such lawsuit to be filed by a Sikh American though several were targeted after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the mistaken belief they are followers of Osama bin Laden because of the way they dress and look.

In the lawsuit, Hansdip S. Bindra, 34, who was born in India, charged that Delta Airlines, its affiliate Atlantic Coast Airlines and flight attendant Janet Thomas violated his civil rights on a flight in November 2002.

The suit, filed in a court in Newark, New Jersey, on Tuesday says that Mr Bindra, a software consultant, boarded a flight in Newark bound for Dayton, Ohio. He alleges that Ms Thomas berated him and referred to him as a “Middle Eastern man” when he retook his seat after retrieving a magazine from the overhead bin.

When he tried to explain that he was a Sikh and not “Middle Eastern,” Ms Thomas told him to “shut up” and “do not cause any problems.”

Mr Bindra claims that the flight attendant told him that she felt threatened by his presence on the plane and was going to ask the captain to take the aircraft back to the gate so that he (Bindra) could be removed by agents. But the plane completed the journey.

Ms Thomas, according to Mr Bindra, also approached several passengers prior to the flights departure and solicited their help to physically subdue him on her signal because he felt he would be “trouble.” She was the only flight attendant on the plane.

She has left Atlantic Coast Airlines since then and reports quoted its spokesman saying that she was disciplined.

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