Vigil on Capitol Hill honors victims of hate violence

On March 10, 2017, the Sikh Coalition joined allied civil rights organizations on Capitol Hill to honor victims of hate violence. Earlier in the day, Interim Program Director, Rajdeep Singh, asked Congressional staffers to push for the creation of a federal hate crime task force. The Sikh Coalition made this request of the White House in an op-ed on CNN in response to a spate of hate crimes targeting Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish American communities nationwide.

Dozens of people held a candlelight vigil in southern India March 9 to mark the birthday of an Indian American engineer shot dead last month in Kansas in an attack the FBI is investigating as a possible hate crime.

In addition to marking Srinivas Kuchibhotla’s 33rd birthday, the people in technology hub Hyderabad also protested what they say is a rising wave of hate crimes in America.

According to witnesses, the gunman yelled “Get out of my country” at Kuchibhotla and his colleague Alok Madasani before opening fire at a bar in Olathe, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City. Madasani and another bar patron were wounded. Adam Purinton of Olathe was arrested at another bar after telling a bartender he shot two people he described as Iranian. He remains jailed on murder and attempted murder charges.

The participants in Hyderabad included the family of Kuchibhotla. The marchers held candles as well as posters decrying attacks on Indians in the United States in recent days. The placards had slogans such as “Wake up India” and “Stop Racism, Stop Hate Crime.”

Last week a Sikh man, Deep Rai, was shot at by an unidentified man as he worked on his car in Kent, Wash., a suburb of Seattle. Another Indian, Harnish Patel, was killed in South Carolina 10 days ago, but the killing was not identified as a hate crime.

“This gathering is a reflection of the growing concern and disquiet among Indians over the safety and security of their people in the United States,” M. Rajkumar, who heads an organization of parents who have children living and working outside India, said in an Associated Press report.

Rajkumar said he blames U.S. President Donald Trump’s speeches for the increasing attacks against Indians in America. India raised the issue of the killing of Kuchibhotla in “very strong terms,” a top official said March 9, adding that the security of Indians and persons of Indian origin is a matter of serious concern for the Indian government, according to an IANS report.

On a day the issue featured in a major way in Parliament and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh assured the Lok Sabha that the government is taking the issue very seriously, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said in a briefing that Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar was conveyed by U.S. officials during his talks in Washington that the Feb. 22 attack on Kuchibhotla and Madasani was an “individual case,” IANS reported.

Baglay said that the Indian Consulate reached out to the families of Kuchibhotla and Madasani, as well as Rai. “You would have also seen the response of the U.S. authorities, beginning with President Trump who referred to the Kansas incident in his address to the Congress. The U.S. Embassy had put out a press release condemning the Kansas killing. Speaker of the House has also condemned it,” said the spokesperson, according to the IANS report.

“This point has also been highlighted by various prominent U.S. dignitaries that such crimes do not represent the views of the vast majority in that country. In fact, several senior U.S. dignitaries have explicitly mentioned in the recent days that Indians are welcome in the United States,” he added.

“Given the high priority the government attaches to the security and wellbeing of Indians and persons of Indian origin abroad, we will continue to remain strongly engaged with the concerned authorities wherever required.”

He also said that the government of Kansas has offered to provide support to the family of Kuchibhotla and has welcomed Indians to the state. Referring to the letter of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Baglay said, “There is a sense of regret at the unfortunate shooting, commitment to prosecute the matter, support to the family of the deceased, and recognition of the qualities and contribution of Srinivas to Kansas.” Brownback March 8 wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing regret over the violence against Indians.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh March 9 asserted that the center has taken very serious note of the hate crimes against Indians in the U.S. and said the Modi government will come out with a statement on the issue.

“Want to assure the house that the government has taken up incidents against Indians in the U.S. very seriously and the government will give a statement on it next week,” Rajnath Singh said in Lok Sabha after resumption of the budget session of Parliament, IANS reported.

Protest marches have been held in India too. On March 9, the All India Students’ Association held a protest march against hate crimes against Indians in the U.S. and demanded strict action from the government. Members of the left wing student organization marched from Teen Murti to the U.S. Embassy to protest rising cases of racist attacks against Indians in the U.S., IANS reported.

The association demanded the government should hold Trump “accountable for propagating hate against racial minorities.” They asked for a tough diplomatic stand by Modi against increasing cases of hate crimes in the U.S.

The protesters raised slogans such as “America ki dalali nahi chalegi,” “Trump ki dalali nahi chalegi,” which translates to “The American and Trump interference will not be tolerated.”

“We will try to make this a civil society protest later. We are raising an initial voice against the deaths of the Indian Americans in the U.S. Not only Indian Americans, there have also been attacks on racial and religious minorities,” AISA’s national president Sucheta De told IANS.

“The racist attackers see minorities and shout, ‘This is not your country, go back to your country.’ Very interestingly, the Ministry of External Affairs and the prime minister are silent because their own party tells religious minorities here to go (back) to their countries,” she said. “We are here to say that hate makes no country great and that there is a need to be proactive to end hate crimes in the U.S.,” she added

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