A Sikh taxi driver in New York has said he was assaulted by a drunken passenger who snatched his turban off and shouted racial slurs at him early on Sunday morning, reported the New York Post. Harkirat Singh claimed he had picked up four passengers, and during a scuffle, one of the passengers shouted racial slurs at him.

The passengers kept giving him wrong directions, following which he asked them to get out of the cab, Singh said. When they refused to pay their fare, Singh is believed to have called up the police. One of the passengers then gave him the cash, reported New York Daily News.

However, another one of the passengers tried to smash the taxi’s meter and punched Singh in the arm, the 24-year-old told the Daily News. Singh said he was terrified and started pleading to the group to calm down. The drunken group then made a run with Singh’s turban when they realised the police was on their way, the taxi driver told the daily.

The suspect is a Hispanic man in his 20s, wearing red shoes and with short hair, unidentified police officials told the daily. Singh, who filed a report with the New York Police, is believed to have submitted a photo of two of the passengers that he managed to take. Reports said the NYPD was investigating the case as a possible hate crime.

“They did wrong – they insulted my faith, my community,” he told the New York Post.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio condemned the incident on Twitter. “Harkirat Singh – You are welcome here. What happened to you was wrong. You did the right thing by calling the NYPD,” he tweeted.

The incident took place hours after thousands of Sikhs had celebrated “Turban Day” at Times Square on Saturday. The event was organised as part of Baisakhi celebrations. Volunteers tied colourful turbans to around 8,000 Americans and tourists.

Sikhs have been victims of hate crime in foreign countires where they have often been mistaken for Muslims. In March this year, a 39-year-old Sikh man was shot at in United States’s Kent city in Ohio. The attacker had shouted “go back to your own country” at Deep Rai when he was working on his vehicle in his driveway.