A group of Silicon Valley lawmakers, alarmed by incidents of bias attacks on Indian-Americans in the area, has pledged to protect the community and all minorities. It plans to engage lawmakers from around the Valley and the state, and develop a process for reporting such attacks.
“In the past few months, we have seen a number of hate crimes against Indian Americans in our own backyard,” says the March 15 statement.
The local elected officials who signed the letter include U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, who repesents the 17th District, as well as California State Assemblyman Ash Kalra, South San Francisco Mayor Pradeep Gupta, Cupertino Mayor Savita Vaidhyanathan, and Councilmembers Aruna Goel of Dublin, Raj Salwan of Fremont, and Rishi Kumar of Saratoga.
While they believe the attacks are being perpetrated by “fringe elements,” the signatories said they want the Valley to be a model of tolerance.
Kumar told News India Times he began hearing about “very, very minor” incidents of hate attacks on Indian-Americans around the valley after the presidential election, but felt they would “go away.”
“But the tenor of the incidents rose right around the time of the violent shootings in Kansas and Washington state,” Kumar said. He reached out to Rep. Khanna and the others to bring out the statement to reassure community members that the lawmakers had their backs. The statement mentions an incident in San Jose, where an Indian man driving a foreign car was questioned about his loyalty to America and told to “go back to [his] own country,” an incident he later described as his “first racial encounter” in his 41 years in the U.S.
In another incident, the statement says, an Indian woman in Fremont was slapped and that has been categorized a hate crime.
“There are other minor incidences that have not yet been reported to law enforcement officials,” say the signatories.
“At this time we need to engage elected leaders and change the tone of the conversation. And it starts by developing a process of what to do to report a hate incident,” he said. In his conversations with some mayors and other elected officials, Kumar says, “they didn’t seem to know about these incidents.” Kumar has scheduled a meeting with state Senator Jim Bell who represent the Valley, and several CEOs including Sudhir Kulkarni, president of Persistent Systems, and Girish Gaekonde, of Xorian, to discuss immigration issues, March 24, he told News India Times.
Silicon Valley is the hub of technology that attracts thousands of Indian techies employed by companies both large and small. Indian-Americans form an important part of the development of the Valley, responsible for founding some 25 percent of the start-ups according to some estimates, and driving the IT industry in the region. The state has the largest number of Indian-American elected officials. Apart from those from Silicon Valley who signed the letter, U.S. Rep. Ami Bera and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris are some of the high profile Indian-American elected officials from the state.
” It is very unsettling that these hate crimes have popped up in Silicon Valley as well, where diversity and culture are so dearly treasured,” in this nation of immigrants, the signatories say, adding, “That people are being attacked simply because of their skin color or their nation of origin is unacceptable and shameful.”.
On Feb. 22 Srinivas Kuchibhotla, a young Indian techie in Olathe, Kansas, was shot to death by a white man who told him and his friend Alok Madasani to “get out of my country.” Madasani was injured in the attack. On March 3, Deep Singh Rai, a resident of Kent, Washington State, was shot in the arm in his own driveway, when a white man wearing a mask, also told him to get out of the country. The shooting death of an Indian shopkeeper in South Carolina is still being investigated.