In December 2020, prominent talkback radio host Harnek Singh found himself caught in a chilling ordeal that unfolded in the safety of his own driveway in South Auckland. As he arrived home, his ute was rammed abruptly in an unexpected attack. Almost without warning, a posse of masked men descended on him, a realization of impending danger sinking in with chilling suddenness.
Harnek Singh recalled the moment of horror that quickly ensued in his testimonial today at the High Court at Auckland. Embroiled in a tussle against four men charged with an alleged politically-charged attempted murder and a fifth man tied to allegations of an accessory after the crime, Singh bravely recounted the chilling events of the night.
It was a hard pill to swallow, the stark truth that he might not live to see another day. The truth dawned on him as he saw the masked men approach, a cold acceptance replacing his initial shock. Revisiting the traumatic incident wasn’t easy, and Singh frequently paused to collect his thoughts before continuing his testimony.
A broadcaster by profession, Singh mustered every ounce of courage and managed to maintain his composure, projecting a strong voice despite its occasional tremors. He politely refused a box of tissues offered by court personnel, persisting with determination, and recounting the events with painstaking clarity.
With his head dipped low and cellphone discarded, Singh sounded his ute’s horn in the hope of seeking help. It was a desperation that was met with violence, triggering the first blow on his windscreen. The adrenaline and onset of fear led to a blur of painful memories, a haze in which he encountered several stab wounds and almost lost his arm.
Following the brutal attack, Singh recalled a grim reality upon waking up in a hospital bed the next day, his right arm entirely dysfunctional. He remembered uttering a plea for help as concerned bystanders responded to the vehicle’s continued honking, only realising the grim severity of his injuries after the assailants had fled.
According to court officials, six men meticulously pursued Singh on the evening of Dec 23, 2020, following him home from the Papatoetoe temple where his recording studio was located. While three of them have pleaded guilty to the charges, the remaining three, along with a defendant under identity protection, stand trial for allegedly executing the assassination attempt.
As Singh continued his testimony, he drew attention to his wounded arm, vividly remembering how he had to get skin from his thigh grafted onto the horribly mutilated arm. With an overwhelming 175 staples in his head alone, and over 40 wounds in total, Singh’s ordeal was indeed terrifying.
Singh identified himself as an operations manager, hosting a small FM radio programme which had a community reach. Over time, audio clips from the programme began surfacing on social media, effectively broadening his listener base. Today, the programme boasts nearly 473,000 YouTube subscribers, a substantial proportion of whom tune in from overseas.
Surprisingly, respondents from New Zealand comprise merely 5 to 10 percent of his total audience. Nonetheless, Singh’s talks on religion and interpretations of Sikhism have managed to draw a robust listener base, both admirers and disapproving critics.
During his trial, Harnek painted a picture of his life post the attack, explaining the potential sources of disagreement from his audience. The majority of his critics espouse a more conservative or fundamentalist perspective on Sikhism, in stark contrast to Singh’s more liberal interpretation, leading to varying degrees of friction.
On the unfortunate night, Singh ended his programme an hour later than usual, unaware of the horrifying events that would soon color his tranquil routine. The usual 15-minute drive listening to music was disrupted by a shock when his ute was hit as he turned into his driveway.
Spurred by the burgeoning horror upon noticing the approaching masked attackers, and barricading himself the best he could, Singh had to wrestle destiny. The attack was brutal and quick, leaving him bleeding profusely and severely injuring his arm.
His chilling trial shed light on the ordeal he experienced, a harsh reality being unfolding in the safety of his home. Despite his harrowing wounds and traumatic experience, Singh’s voice remains resilient as the trial continues before Justice Mark Woolford and the jury.