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A 41-Year-Old Woman Was Attacked In US After Her Bandanna Was Mistaken For Hijab

"What happened to me pales in comparison to the hate and violence many of my brothers and sisters have faced across the country."

21/11/2016 1:01 PM IST | Updated 21/11/2016 1:35 PM IST
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Carlo Allegri / Reuters

SAN FRANCISCO -- A 41-year-old Indian-American woman has been racially attacked in the US state of California after a bandana on her head was mistaken as a hijab, the latest in a series of assaults following Donald Trump's win.

Nicki Pancholy was on her 'peace walk' when on return she found her car window shattered, her purse gone and a note calling her a "Hijab wearing b****," and asking her to 'get the f out'.

Pancholy is not Muslim, nor does she wear a hijab. She is a Rajasthani and has been battling Lupus, which caused hair loss, and put the bandanna on her head as protection from the sun, NBC news reported.

"When I saw it, I was in shock. That someone would feel so much hate to do this. I realise that this is the climate after this election. But I didn't realise someone would be so ignorant and in so much pain to cause so much harm," she said.

"I was wearing a bandana over my head, not because I am religious, but because I am protecting my scalp from the sun because I have lupus, an inflammatory autoimmune disease that can damage tissues and organs, she added.

She had been hiking in Mission Peak (just north of San Jose) every morning for 65 days straight before this happened, it said.

"I didn't know who was watching me. I would like for the violence to end with me," she added.

"Many of our neighbours, friends, and family fear the current climate in our country, and we must do our best to make sure everyone is respected," Raj Salwan, Freemont City Councillor-elect said.

Police are investigating the note as a hate crime and auto burglary as her windows were smashed and someone stole her purse and checkbook, it said.

Pancholy is just one of a growing number of people across the country, even in the Democratic stronghold of the Bay Area, to fall victim to hateful harassment since Trump was elected president.

Last week, a Muslim student's hijab was allegedly ripped off and her hair pulled down by a classmate at a school in Minnesota.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has noted a marked increase in hateful acts across the country since Trump has been elected. As of Monday, the hate-tracking group has found 437 reports of hateful intimidation or harassment since 9 November.

In a similar incident, a 22-year-old Sikh, studying at the prestigious Harvard Law School, was allegedly abused and harassed at a store near the campus by a man who mistook him for a Muslim.

Harmann Singh, a first year law student at the university, said he was shopping in a store in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while speaking on the phone with his mother, when a man walked in and said to the clerk behind the counter, "Oh look, there's a (expletive) Muslim."

"Over the weekend, I was confronted by a man who called me a '(expletive) Muslim' and followed me around a store aggressively asking where I was from, and and no one in the store said a thing. I was on the phone with my mom the entire time, and we were both concerned for my safety as this man stood inches away from me," Singh wrote about his experience in The Boston Globe.

"While deeply painful, what happened to me pales in comparison to the hate and violence many of my brothers and sisters have faced across the country," he wrote.

According to Singh, the man started following him around the store, harassing him and asking him where he was from.

Singh, who is from Buffalo, New York, said he tried to ignore the man and continue his conversation with his mother, who was worried.

She could hear the man questioning Singh and told her son to leave the shop. Singh said the man followed him to the checkout counter.

"I told him, 'Hey I'm actually from New York. I live here now down the street. Is there anything I can do to help you?'" Singh said.

The man did not respond and Singh left the store as quickly as possible.

He said the most effective way to help people who feel marginalised is to 'be there for each other in these moments'.

A bystander who checks in with the person being harassed in any situation can make all the difference, he said.

The owner of the store told Boston.com that he was going back and forth between the back and front of the shop at the time of the incident that took place on 11 November and saw the man who spoke to Singh come in.

He said he had planned to ask the man to leave, but went to the back of the store when the incident occurred. Both Singh and the other man were gone when he returned.

He said he was shocked and sorry when his clerk told him what happened.

"I don't know where that guy came from and I hope I don't see him again," said the owner, who did not want to be named.

Over 200 incidents of hateful harassment and intimidation across the US have been reported since Donald Trump won the presidential election.

Also on HuffPost India.

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