EDISON, NEW JERSEY
Bollywood actor Arjun Rampal says the best way to beat the negative around us is through love and not through hate. “By keeping quiet about hate crimes or discrimination, we are giving victory to the terrorists and the hate mongers,” he said. Rampal was speaking at a panel discussion held March 11 at the TV Asia studios here on hate crimes targeted at the Indian-Americans and the South Asian-American community.
Moderated by Dr. Kavita Gupta, panelists included Rampal; Hirsh Vardhan Singh, a New Jersey-based businessman, who has announced his run for the governor’s race; Dr. Sudhir Parikh, publisher of Desi Talk and recipient of India’s Padma Shri award; Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a New Jersey-based physician and executive producer of HealthTime TV; Dia Mathews, an immigration attorney from the Chug firm and Woodbridge Township Councilman Viru Patel.
When bias motivates an unlawful act, it is considered a hate crime. Race and religion inspire most hate crimes, but hate today wears many faces. Bias incidents – eruptions of hate where no crime is committed- also tear communities apart — and threaten to escalate into actual crimes.
Parikh highlighted the crucial role the media can play in creating awareness in the community – by educating both the manistream audience as well as the community members. “Education is the most important factor in creating awareness,” Parikh told the audience. Calling the recent hate crimes against Indian-Americans as deplorable, Parikh said the incidents were a combination of ignorance and bigotry. Concurring with Parikh, Councilman Patel emphasized on the importance of educating people and creating a positive environment for everyone to co-exist.
The panel was referring to the three recent shootings — two fatal — of Indians in America. The first one, in Kansas, involved a white army veteran, Adam Purinton, who opened fire on two Indian tech workers in a bar, killing one and injuring another, while shouting, “Go back to your country.” The second shooting involved a Sikh man in a Seattle suburb who was injured in his driveway after a gunman opened fire, allegedly yelling the same thing. And in the third case, a South Carolina Speedie Mart owner who’d been in the country for 14 years was gunned down outside his house. These incidents have created fear in the community and many are wondering if they really belong here.
Mathews said her office has been inundated with calls from Indians – on all kinds of visas – from work visas to Green Cards to event U.S. citizens – who are ambivalent about what documents they might need if out of the country or event out for errands or a walk within their neighborhood. Many are skeptical that they may be asked to go back to their country, Mathews said.
Such feelings of doubts and fear need to be addressed immediately, the panel concurred. It urged the media and the various Indian-American groups and organizations to galvanize the community and reach out to the masses to spread awareness about discrimination and hate crimes.
At the same time the panel noted that while such incidents and few in the tristate area because of the assimilation, the Mid-west is another ball game. Communities there need to be reached out to and their education should be a priority, the panel concluded.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) annual census of hate groups and other extremist organizations released last year, the number of hate groups in the country rose for a second year in a row. The most dramatic growth was the near-tripling of anti-Muslim hate groups – from 34 in 2015 to 101 last year.The SPLC found that the number of hate groups operating in 2016 rose to 917 – up from 892 in 2015. The number is 101 shy of the all-time record set in 2011, but high by historic standards.