US Condemns Hate Crimes, Indian Americans Propose Solutions to Modi

Mark Toner, the US State Department spokesperson at the briefing on April 13, 2017

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Washington, DC – The United States on Thursday (April 13) strongly condemned all hate crimes in any form but couldn’t confirm the specifics of hate-crimes against persons of Indian origin as those are investigated in more detail at the local and regional level.

Answering a question about if any hate-crimes against the Indian origin persons were directed towards their Indian ethnicity, Mark Toner, the US State Department spokesperson told journalists, “With respect to these particular crimes, that’s really something for either local, regional, or federal law enforcement to speak to. All of these crimes need to be thoroughly investigated, and that’s why I’m very hesitant to comment on one particular case or not, because I don’t know the facts.”

Strongly condemning “any hate crime, any crime carried out against someone based on their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, whatever,” Toner said, “We condemn it.”

Highlighting the role Americans of Indian origin play, Toner added, “There’s a strong Indian American community in this country. They’re a vibrant part of American culture and society and the economy here. And we, as Americans, welcome their contribution,” concluding, “Any crime based on – that potentially based on someone’s ethnicity or heritage should be heartily condemned.”

Ironically, it seems not one person of Indian origin has been attacked in the US for being a person of Indian origin but most of the attacks or taunts have been directed to them due to misidentification of their ethnicity or misunderstanding of their cultural or religious symbols.

“My findings yield that the Indian immigrant community in the USA is extremely vibrant. Rarely have I had any fear of any one picking on me as an immigrant of color who may be “different” in accent, looks or habits,” said Vinod S. Negi, President of Virginia based Assay Group.

Beyond issuing statements on attacks on Indian nationals and persons of Indian origin, there has been no visible effort by the Indian government to dispel the misunderstanding that prevails. A campaign to increase awareness amongst the American public about Indian heritage, cultural diversity and religious symbols across the US by the Indian embassy and other consulates, would go a long way in protecting and promoting the Indian diaspora, according to the Indian Americans.

“While no country ought meddle in the internal affairs of another nation, if the comity of nations is to be maintained, but in the case of India – a nation that has celebrated diversity – ethnic and religious over several millennia – it would be a proper inclusion of every Indian Mission’s mandate to highlight Indian Heritage, Cultural Diversity and Religious Symbols to combat Hate Crime,” said Ravi Batra, New York based attorney and Chair of the US National Advisory Council South Asian Affairs.

Similar promotional activities would be welcome if taken up with law and order maintaining organizations like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of State and umpteen number of grassroots level police organizations.

“Educating the people is a basic solution to this challenge,” said New Jersey based writer Sapna Nayyar-Pellicane. “I mean educating the people and the government more broadly in order to improve their knowledge and therefore their attitudes towards other cultures, specifically, South East Asian Indian culture. There is after all a human tendency to be fearful and generally negative about the different and the unfamiliar.”

On this front, there are non-profit organizations of different religions and communities who are making small efforts in this field but an Indian government effort would be a much needed boost for the Indian diaspora, said a person on condition of anonymity, adding that the leaders need to care more for the community than photo-opportunities.

“The Government of India (GOI), through healthy international relationships, and through its embassies and consulates here in the United States, should take on the role of a benevolent educator. It can do so by highlighting Indian heritage, cultural diversity, and religious symbols in order to put a stop to hate crime. It can take some basic steps forward in this direction,” suggested Nayyar-Pellicane.

It is time for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to send an updated guidance which goes according to the bilateral architecture of a strong and growing commercial and economic relationship, driven by entrepreneurs and businesses in both countries.

Expressing major concern over the spate of hate crimes in the US, Harikishan Eppanapally, the founding president and Chairman of the board for Lead India 2020 Foundation said, “The Indian American Community and the Indian embassy need to take proactive measures to promote social harmony by educating local communities about who we are and what kind of diversity we bring to the development of this great nation. Its the need of the hour to organize some community events throughout the nation to bring peace and harmony.”

Requesting the GOI to support US-India Partnership and use of new terminologies below as a norm and part of all addresses, Puneet Ahluwalia, Member Trump APA Advisory Committee and State Central Committee member Republican party of Virginia listed three strategic aims:

– US – India Asia Pacific Strategy & US – India Pacific Strategy

– US – India – Afghanistan Strategy

– US – India – Sri Lanka Strategy

On the business front, Ahluwalia, a Consultant at The Livingston Group said, “The GOI should identify a simple pathway for US companies to enhance their footprints of trade partnership with Indian businesses.” Noting the importance of “Protecting IP of US companies and solution on Tariffs,” Ahluwalia said, “The large Indian companies at times feel that they cannot be challenged on IP issues.”

The highest levels of political leadership in both countries have committed to forming such a partnership, which has been slowly developing since the Clinton administration.

Rishi Kumar, Council-member, Saratoga City (CA) expressed confidence that the GOI ”can definitely engage to address challenges that Indian American minorities in the US are lately facing.” Kumar said, “One one hand we have been mistaken for middle easterners, our Sikh brothers have been mistakenly categorized as Afghanistanis, and the H1-B rhetoric, 60 minutes coverage on H1-B, has further exacerbated the issues that face our community.”

Expressing disappointment, Negi said, “the Government of India did not take any effective actions to educate and lobby the Congress, Senators and Governors of states to encourage its police force and community leaders to reign in the hate-propelling language.” Citing the case of an Indian national, Negi lamented inaction from the GOI, “We also have seen how the police paralyzed the father of an immigrant who was a frail person but was almost thrown to the ground by a bully police man who has been cleared of any wrong doing.”

Noting that there is a need to “change perceptions and explain who we really are – and now is as good a time as any,” Council-member Kumar urged the Indian Americans “to be more organized and establish processes to address our issues and concerns and develop a cohesive united front.”

“By upholding integrity, service and great intentions, Indian Americans can be integral in constructing an America that is more equal, more just, and a better America. Can the Indian Government help in this effort as well? Sitting on the sidelines may be OK, but an active engagement will work so much better,” said Kumar.

“In addition, providing clear cut directions to Consulate Generals across America, a process playbook as to what to do with various situations, perhaps even empowering them to work with local elected leaders will help immensely,” suggested Kumar.

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