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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Did Gurbaksh Chahal Buy a Posse (From a San Jose Sikh Temple)?

Posted By on Tue, Apr 26, 2016 at 2:22 PM

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Beleaguered social media-friendly tech CEO Gurbaksh "G" Chahal was in court on Friday to answer charges that he violated the terms of his probation for a 2014 domestic violence charge a few months after it was imposed. (The alleged victim is overseas and is not returning to the United States to testify; an exhausted judge on Friday continued the hearing to May 17.)

He was not alone.

Joining his father and his bodyguards outside the Hall of Justice were about 15 members of the Sikh community from San Jose, where the main Gurdwara, or Sikh temple, has pledged its official support for Chahal, who has met District Attorney George Gascon's efforts to revoke his probation — and possibly put him in jail — with charges of racism and bias against Indian-Americans. Much of that line has been echoed by an apparently-astroturfed Facebook and Twitter campaign.

This is not sitting well with other Bay Area-based Sikhs, who are openly questioning why the committee of the Gurdwara is getting involved at all — and what Chahal or his family may have done to earn the support of a religious institution. 

Ahead of Friday's hearing, Chahal made no secret of organized support at the Gurdwara. Buses heading to San Francisco left from the San Jose Gurdwara on Friday morning — organized (or at least advertised) by Chahal.

Other Sikhs have since denounced this, too, as astroturfing.

Chahal was born in the Indian province of Punjab and grew up in the Fremont and San Jose areas. While he does not wear a beard nor does he wear a turban, "his last name identifies him to any Indian as a Sikh," says Supreet Singh Manchanda, a local tech investor who says he is a member of the same Gurdwara. "And his behavior is very un-Sikh-like. Sikhs are guardians of women, not bashers of women."

According to local Sikhs who contacted SF Weekly, the head of the Gurdwara's committee, a man known as Bob Singh Dhillon, gave Chahal the Gurdwara's support. This is not unlike, say, a church or synagogue coming out in support of a member of its congregation who'd run afoul of the law.

Other Gurdwara attendees are raising a stink, saying Dhillon did so unilaterally and without the congregation's support.

Efforts to reach Chahal through his attorney, Jim Lassart, were not successful. 

Meanwhile, the "protest" had an air of absurdity. It was not clear that the attendees knew exactly what they were doing. In fact, Chahal's Sikh detractors are convinced they did not.

"Most of the older people didn't have a clue what was going on," Manchanda says. "As far as they knew, some poor guy was getting beat up for wearing a turban...  He [Chahal] most likely paid a bunch of money to Bob."

Reached via telephone, Dhillon denied any monetary transaction related to the protest, though in a follow-up email he did note that the Gurdwara may have received a donation from Chahal in the past.

According to Dhillon, who was present Friday, Chahal is a victim of "harassment."

"We are very much concerned with domestic violence," he said, noting that he was indeed there on Friday representing the Gurdwara, which is in Chahal's corner.

"We try to advise people to get counseling — those with real problems, to get rehabilitation. But in his case, at this stage, it is very, very clear harassment."

Other Sikhs, while doubting Dhillon received cash for his support, are still outraged by the appearance of a religious institution in Chahal's legal affairs.

"It is not only the Sikh Community Of San Jose Gurdwara, I would say the majority of the Sikh Community of the Bay Area, that is NOT supporting nor standing with him," Harbir K Bhatia, a city commissioner in Santa Clara, wrote to SF Weekly in an email. "I hope something can be done to show the truth."

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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