For the last few weeks, the sense of fear among Indian Americans is palpable after the recent incidents of hate crime against community members. These include the killing of aviation engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Kansas, which is now being investigated by the FBI officially as a hate crime.
Early this week, community members held an awareness rally against hate crimes near the White House in Washington DC, seeking the intervention of President Donald Trump on the issue of Indian-Americans facing racist and xenophobic attacks across America. The message to the president in a petition was to allay the fears of the community and show his support, and take steps to eliminate the racist hate.
Indian-Americans across the US feel that there has been a spurt in the incidents of bullying and racist attacks against them, as a peaceful rally organised in Palo Alto, in the heart of Silicon Valley and home to a large number of Indian techies, highlighted.
“There have been scores of garden variety bullying and ‘go back to your country’ type harassment right here in the Bay Area. These crimes are not isolated and random incidents and what we need to take away from these incidents is that our complacency won’t serve us any good.
Being the model minority will not save us from the hate. Haters do not check your visa status. Indian-Americans must pledge to be a part of the larger movement to resist the forces unleashed in America today,” Jayati Sengupta, the organiser of the event and cofounder of CareerWaze Inc, a tech-skills development firm, told ET Magazine.
Bay Area families gathered at Lytton Plaza in Palo Alto last Sunday and remembered Kuchibhotla even as they stood up peacefully against the national wave of hate and xenophobia. They also expressed solidarity with other targeted communities, and frustration with an administration that refuses to protect them.
Speakers at the event included entrepreneurs, Cupertino mayor Savita Vaidhyanathan and Anu Natarajan, a former vice-mayor of Fremont. Among the topics discussed was the recent attack on Indrajit Banerjee a physics PhD and an American citizen for almost 41 years, who was verbally harassed outside a farmer’s market in San Jose.
Various community advocacy groups such as the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and Sikh Coalition are also addressing safety and security issues. The Sikh Coalition has reached out to the administration including the White House in response to the hate-motivated murder of Kuchibhotla and recent crimes targeting Jews, Muslims and Sikhs in recent weeks.
The organisation has asked the White House to convene a federal task force on hate crime prevention. “We have joined over 150 national civil rights organisations calling on the Trump administration to respond more strongly to hate incidents.
At grassroots level, in response to a spike in hate attacks against synagogues and mosques, we have also launched a campaign called #LoveMyNeighbor, which asks our supporters to send letters of solidarity to the Jewish and Muslim communities,” says Rajdeep Singh Jolly, the Sikh Coalition’s interim managing director of programmes.
Meanwhile, in response to a crime that occurred in their community in Kent, Washington, Sikh leaders have spoken to the media, elected officials, and interfaith groups about the need to be more proactive about hate crime prevention. In addition, over 3,000 people have endorsed the #LoveMyNeighbor campaign.
The coalition will continue to press US government officials to strengthen bias prevention measures. “Specifically, we will urge them to improve bullying prevention in our public schools; expand cultural competency training for law enforcement officials; and promote interfaith solidarity.”
“Acknowledging our potential vulnerabilities is not something we’ve done so far, at least collectively. There’s now more of a willingness to talk about bias-motivated incidents, big or small, on social media, email, and at social gatherings.
Previously, people may have ignored or weren’t fazed by small infractions like someone yelling, ‘Go back to your country!’ or slurs faced while wearing traditional clothing,” says Suhag Shukla, executive director of HAF.
The organisation is creating a database that is both curated from news and other sources and crowd-sourced from individuals reporting racist incidents through an online form. While so far HAF is not able to provide individual legal assistance, members are monitoring the data and relaying incidents of concern to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
The organisation is also looking into several requests to host ‘know your rights’ seminars to educate community members on their rights and ways to engage law enforcement, government officials, and other stakeholders.
Indian-American elected officials in the US such as assembly member Ash Kalra of California and Congress representatives Ro Khanna, Tulsi Gabbard, Raja Krishnamoorthy and Pramila Jayapal are working with various government authorities and have spoken out on these issues. The India caucus in the house of representatives has also been approached to go to the Trump administration with the message that this is an issue of great seriousness for the Indian-American community.
In Kansas, governor Sam Brownback has met with the community members and pledged to take steps to affirm the value of Indian-Americans. To this end, March 16 was commemorated as Indian-American Awareness and Appreciation Day in Kansas.
There are local efforts like peace rallies all over the country. Also, education is a focus for our community, empowering Indian-Americans with understanding how to contact our elected leaders.
There is a feeling of discomfort and Indian-Americans are realising that we need to engage politically. We are also looking to organise ourselves, build processes to address such incidences and prevent repeats and also tracking and documenting hate crimes,¨ says Rishi Kumar, a council member of Saratoga in Silicon Valley.
Another effort that the Indian-American community in the Bay Area is focused on is engaging with the youth to take action against racist incidents. We are launching a new leadership group called youth for humanity,¨ Kumar added.
The US India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) has, meanwhile, reached out to the US department of justice to make sure that all incidents of racism against Indian-Americans are treated as hate crime and there is a strong response from the authorities. We have been receiving hundreds of emails and phone calls from concerned members of community. This is not a stray one off incident and we are trying to reach out on cross generational and cross party lines within the community,¨ says Sanjay Puri, chairman of USINPAC.
Source- The Economic Times