Recently, the story of Indian senior citizen Sureshbhai Patel visiting his family in Madison, Alabama went viral. He was accosted by two policemen so viciously that he is now paralyzed. His family has filed a lawsuit.
His son Chirag Patel, a defense contractor who has been here for eight years says he has never been racially discriminated against. But he adds that times have changed.
Ravi Batra, a well known Manhattan based attorney and the chair of the National Advisory Council on South Asian Affairs took the initiative to write to Secretary of State John Kerry asking for a humanitarian visa for Sureshbhai’s wife Shakuntala Patel.
And he also wrote a letter to Air India asking for a free ticket.
Both requests are pending.
2.8 Mn American Indian ‘Targets’
“We really need to stand up and say something or these incidents will not stop,” Batra said.
“We will continue to be victims. We have not learnt the lesson well.”
He has a point. There are 2.81 million Indian Americans in the US but they are rarely seen or heard.
Here are examples of crimes that Indian Americans routinely put up with -
Hindu temples are vandalized regularly. One Hindu temple in Washington had the word “fear” spray painted with 7-8 windows smashed and the other had a swastika painted on it with the words “Get Out.”
Cash businesses run by Indians such as convenience stores are often robbed at gunpoint.
During Diwali and other pujas, American-Indian homes are robbed because it is well known fact that they own 22-carat gold ornaments.
“They target us because we are a quiet minority, law abiding and we don’t fight back. But we should prosecute and send a message,” said Subramanian, an information technology specialist, who has a sophisticated alarm system installed for his wife and two children.
From 1987 to 1993, Dotbusters attacked and harassed numerous Indians, burglarized homes and businesses in New Jersey. There were 58 cases and a number of perpetrators were bought to justice and tougher anti-hate legislation was passed.
Other ethnic communities such as Italians, Koreans, Chinese and most recently Mexicans have also faced their share of hate crimes. But the difference between their communities and Indians is that they are united. They fight back through political representatives and attorneys. Advocates for “minority communities” are regulars on television shows.
Indian-Americans Need to put up a United Front
Indian community leaders, activists and other ‘voices’ are largely absent in the mainstream.
Ravi Batra suggests that without unity, the American Indian community could face the fate suffered by the Jewish community at the hands of the Nazis in Europe. He shares the chilling story of “Kristallnacht” or “Crystal Night” - the night of 9-10 November 1938, which saw particularly deadly attacks.
Batra argues that Indian Americans can be a force.
There is a perpetual struggle between good and evil. Each one of us has the power to battle it and as a group, we will be unstoppable. Unite now. Remember the night of crystals.
-Ravi Batra, Chair, National Advisory Council, South Asian Affairs
(Sonia Chopra is a freelance journalist based in the US.)