Indian-Americans, noted for the number of community organizations that exist to represent not just their interests here, but also that of every ethnic, religious, political party, ideology, or regional subset from India and the United States, are attempting to put aside differences and presenting a relatively more united voice, following the horrific suicide bombing that killed more than 40 paramilitary personnel in Kashmir’s Pulwama District on Valentine’s Day. They are, together and separately, urging the international community and policymakers in Washington, to act more decisively against terror in South Asia for a permanent solution between warring neighbors.
Jaish-e-Mohammad which operates within Pakistan, and which the U.S. administration has designated as terrorist group, declared it was behind the attack, raising the ire, not just of Indian citizens, but also Indians abroad. The U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said India had the rith to self-defense in the face of such an attack and that Washington and New Delhi would work together to ensure Pakistan is not used as a haven by terrorists.
In the U.S., community organizations like the Federation of Indian Associations in the New York tri-state area and in Chicago, the National Federation of Indian American Associations which operates from Washington, D.C., the Punjabi Cultural Society in Chicagoland, the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, New Jersey, the Overseas Friends of Bharatiya Janata Party coast to coast; the Indian National Overseas Congress, to name just a few, have joined the chorus of condemnations in this country from the White House down to state and local level.
Protests are being planned in front of Pakistani embassies and consulates around North America, including one held in Toronto this week. And community organizations are waiting for permits from local authorities to hold a demonstration at the United Nations in New York City.
Ad hoc community groups and non-formal gatherings are holding meetings and candle light vigils from coast to coast and including from Minnesota to Florida, according to those who are keeping tabs. And many are contributing to the Indian government website to support the families of those who lost their lives at Bharatkeveer.gov.in.
“We have a candle-light vigil February 21 at Royal Albert’s Palace,” in Fords, N.J., Alok Kumar, president of the FIA-NYNJCT. “This is the whole Indian community and several organizations. We are trying Adto show how we as a community are against terror, and we are following up with calls and outreach to Congressmen and Senators to act on Pakistan,” Kumar added. “And in urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to act like the strong leader he is, does not mean attacking Pakistan, but rather building the international pressure to prevent these groups from operating inside that country,” Kumar said.
The OFBJP-USA, which belongs ideologically to the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been leading but also following other groups as they hold vigils around the country in places like Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Detroit, and Tampa, said Krishna Reddy Anugula, president of the USA Chapter of the organization. All the actions, he emphasized, are “non-partisan”. The OFBJP-USA president also said his organization was “very appreciative of the unequivocal support of the current U.S. administration,” and that “We as an non-resident Indians, urge the world community to put pressure on Pakistan to stop providing infrastructure for such groups.” In the U.S., he said, “It is our community’s job to educate lawmakers to take a closer look at Pakistan’s actions not only in India but in Afghanistan. The Indian community has to engage local representatives and others for this.”
“It is a very shocking and unacceptable barbaric act and the person who did it and those behind him should be punished,” said Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, of Parikh Worldwide Media and ITV Gold. “Prime Minister Modi and the government must do something to prevent such acts in future. And no matter who we are, in India or here, or anywhere, should condemn this. And we should stand behind India for whatever action it sees fit to take,” Dr. Parikh added.
“The community is not waiting for someone to lead. This week in Phoenix, Arizona, in Colorado, Minnesota, people are taking the lead,” Anugula told Desi Talk. “So, yes, there is no one organization that is leading the effort. But that people are moving on their own is a positive thing,” Anugula said, contrary to the views expressed by Peter Kothari, a long time community activist and founder of the Indo-American Cultural Society based in New Jersey.
Kothari’s critique was that, “The community is divided at least in the northeast area, and we are not doing anything but propaganda and to get mileage.” He said there was no single strong-enough organization to take collective action after the attack.”Statements are nothing. Yes, they are required, but so is immediate action.”
Harbhachan Singh, president of the Indian National Overseas Congress, ideologically affiliated to the opposition party in India, told Desi Talk that while INOC had not been approached by any organization to act collectively, the membership has discussed having a vigil and also deciding how to help the affected families in India, not only through government channels but also in alternative ways.
“But India and Pakistan have to find a permanent solution to this conflict,” Singh said, adding that one does not know whether it can be the International Court of Justice or a body set up by UN Security Council members. “Otherwise both countries are spending so much on being on the warpath that resources that could to toward development of the country and people is diverted. It’s a lose-lose situation.”
“An act of terrorism cannot and should not go without heavy punishments for those who cowardly use suicidal personnel to carry out such barbaric activities. NFIA strongly condemns this act and offer condolences to the families of 44 paramilitary personnel families,” the NFIA said in a press statement.
“People are right now shocked and angry. And since we are all connected globally and people seeing the photographs, the corpses, and the destruction, has made everyone very emotional,” Angela Anand, president of NFIA told Desi Talk. “They need to express how they feel. … We hope all nations will join in condemning any act of terror wherever it may happen,” Anand said, adding that the board wants to raise funds and is looking into it.
For Rajinder Singh Mago, founder of the Punjabi Cultural Society in Chicagoland, it is a matter of showing solidarity at any and all events possible. He will represent PCS at the candle light vigil in Naperville, Illinois Feb. 18, and in following days at yet another functions organized by by the two factions of the Federation of Indian Associations Chicago. Plus, on Thursday, Feb. 21, there is a protest at the Pakistani Consulate. “Our members will be participating in these events and we are on the flyer as participating with others,” Mago told Desi Talk.
As this goes to press five more Indian officers and three militants were killed in Kashmir in the same Pulwama District as they engaged in a multi-hour gun battle, The Washington Post reported. And Indian forces said they had killed three militants including the suspected organizer of the Valentine’s Day bombing.