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January 4, 2000
Two Cabbies Slain on New Year's Day
R S Shankar
Baljinder Singh Rai and Kuldip Singh did not know each other but their violent death at the hands of unknown assailants in cities hundreds of miles apart from each other once again focussed on the vulnerability of immigrants.
Kuldip Singh, 25, who was getting ready to go to India to marry a woman chosen by his family, was murdered on January 1 in New York City.
Though no arrest has been made in his death, police believe he was shot by one of two passengers who got into his cab around midnight, and tried to rob him. The assailants fled on foot, hailed another taxi a few minutes later, and disappeared. Singh, who has been in America for about seven years, has been driving cab for about two years.
Singh, who had been shot in the head, tried to drive for a few minutes but collapsed as his car crashed into a parked car. He was among the five people who were murdered in New York on January 1.
"He knew driving at night could be dangerous," said a family friend. "But he drove at night because he could make more money, since there were no traffic jams."
In Toronto, Canada, the murder of Rai in nearby Brampton made authorities wonder if there was a connection with the murder of another immigrant cabbie less than a week ago. Mohammadullah Saighani, a doctor who had fled Afghanistan to be away from its violence and drove a taxi for over a year, was beaten and stabbed. His body was found outside a warehouse, two miles from where his cab was parked.
Rai, 48, was found stabbed to death behind a market on January 1; an hour ago, he had dinner with his family members, and had talked about how his job as a cabbie helped him support the family and donate for good causes.
He also said, according to family members, he had no fear driving in Brampton because it was a small city. Rai was saving money to train his sons for better life. Rai's eldest son, 21, has polio; his second son is about 17.
After working at many temporary jobs, Rai, who has lived in and around Toronto for 11 years, drove at night on the weekends to supplement his income as a courier. He had been driving a cab for nearly seven years. His friends said that though from time to time, Rai said he wished he could be a courier seven days a week, he still drove a cab because couriers could not work full week.
Rai had recently turned more religious, members of a gurdwara who had known him for many years said. He grew beard about a year ago, and began to carry the kirpan.
He was stabbed in the neck and collapsed after alerting passers-by, who called the police. About 15 minutes before he was attacked, he had picked up two passengers and radioed the information to the taxi office.
Sarbjit Verma, a dispatcher for Kwik Kab whose taxi Rai drove, said Rai was a model driver and there was not a single complaint against him. There had been no mention from Rai that he was afraid or he had been attacked before, Verma and family friends said.
Over a dozen of Brampton's taxi drivers pulled their meters down on Monday to protest the murder and demand safety measures from the city.
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