America comes swinging against hate crimes targeting Indians

Alok Reddy Madasani and his wife at a candlelight vigil in Olathe, Kansas, following the murder of Srinivas Kuchibhotla. REUTERS.

NEW YORK: The Indian Diaspora is protesting, fighting back against hate crimes in America. Several states, commendably, are trying to help safeguard minority communities by passing laws to curb bigotry and racially-tinged attacks. It’s important for Indian Americans to speak up against any form of discrimination, lodge a complaint with the appropriate authorities. It would help create further awareness; prevent hateful incidents from happening in future, to somebody else.

Last Sunday, a group called Coalition of Indian American Organizations of the USA held a protest outside the White House. They submitted a memorandum to President Donald Trump, urged him to speak up against hate crimes, punish culprits under federal hate crimes law.

“Hindus have been recently affected and victimized as a result of Islamophobia. It does affect our community as well,” Vindhya Adapa, a 27-year-old corporate lawyer based in Virginia, told PTI, at the White House protest.

Sheshadri, a young Indian American doctor was quoted as saying: “We are here today to raise awareness against hate crimes particularly against people of Indian origin. This is not necessarily a protest against the Trump Administration. We are here to seek bipartisan support against the hate crimes that has been happening recently against Indian Americans.”

It’s not just the common man who’s stepping out on streets to protest, participate in candlelight vigils to create awareness of the threat that hangs over every brown-skinned person in America from racist nationalists and White supremacists.

Indian American lawmakers on Capitol Hill have all spoken in one voice against the rising tide of hate crimes, denounced it. In fact, Sen. Kamala Harris and the four House of Representative members, Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, Pramila Jayapal and Raja Krishnamoorthi held a joint meet to condole and condemn the shooting death of Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Kansas.

Tulsi Gabbard, the Hindu Congresswoman from Hawaii, this week urged the Justice Department to investigate all violent acts motivated by bigotry, pleaded to promote a pluralistic society in America.

Further awareness on how communities are devastated by hate crimes will be created later today when India House Houston, in Texas, honors Ian Grillot for his bravery in trying to take down the shooter who killed Kuchibhotla.

Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas must be applauded for being the first one out of the blocks in expressing his anguish at hate crimes against Indians. He sent a personal letter to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi following the murder of Kuchibhotla, condoled his death, assured that Indians are welcome in his state.

Now, other states are rushing legislation to clamp down on hate crimes.

The Wall Street Journal reported there are multiple bills in New York that include heightened penalties for desecrating a religious cemetery and a broad array of new punishments contemplated in Connecticut. In Illinois, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is supporting several measures, such as a bill that boosts penalties for vandalism against religious institutions.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo created a state police unit in November to investigate hate-crime reports. The state Senate passed a legislative package this month that would make hate-crime graffiti a felony rather than a misdemeanor, among other measures. Connecticut would elevate desecration against houses of worship to felonies. The state would also lower the threshold for a first-degree hate crime to inflicting “physical injury” rather than “serious injury.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D. Conn.) recently introduced a federal bill that aims to improve hate-crime reporting and allow victims to pursue civil actions against offenders.

The Oregon legislature is considering a bill that adds ethnicity and gender as protected classes under the state’s hate-crime law. In Florida, legislators are weighing whether to include gender and gender identity as protected statuses. Meantime, Kentucky on Wednesday became the second state after Louisiana to enact a law making it a hate crime to attack police.

There are, however, five states without laws criminalizing bias-motivated violence or intimidation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures: Indiana, Georgia, Arkansas, Wyoming and South Carolina. Some lawmakers in these states have been pushing to pass hate-crime laws for years without success.

The Wall Street Journal also noted that more recent U.S. data show sharp increases in hate crimes in major cities, including New York and Los Angeles. Local law-enforcement agencies in 15 major metropolitan areas reported over 1,600 hate crimes in 2016, up 10% from the previous year, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

No doubt, racism is rampant, but it’s heartening to note the prompt response to any form of racial abuse by local police and elected officials.

Kiro 7 reported an incident where an Indian American woman in Seattle, Washington, Tarul Kode Tripathi, a pharmacist and a mother of two, was racially abused by an unidentified motorist, with whom she got into an altercation on the road.

Tripathi said she was driving in her car in Issaquah when another driver got angry and started swearing at her. When she rolled down her window and told him to “calm down,” she said he continued swearing at her and told her to “get out.”

While the police didn’t think it warranted a hate crime, and Tripathi later didn’t file a police report, what is encouraging is that the city made the issue public.

Kiro 7 reported Sammamish City Manager Howard Lyman issued a statement on Tripathi’s incident and read it at the City Council meeting. City leaders plan to meet with Tripathi next month.

Tripathi told KIRO 7 she declined to file a police report because she didn’t have the make and model or license plate on the other vehicle.

For sure, there will be other incidents targeting the Indian community. But as long as local city and police officials take prompt notice of any bigotry, come down hard on perpetrators, the Indian American community should be able to sleep peacefully at night.

(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: Follow him on twitter @SujeetRajan1)



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