Indian-Americans hold vigils for Indian soldiers killed in blast in Kashmir

The Indian American community across the United States has come together to pledge their support and pay homage to the fallen Jawans in the terror attack that killed dozens in the state of Kashmir last month. A number of Indian-Americans continued to gather across the country in major U.S. cities, to hold candle light vigils and mourn the killing of the Indian soldiers, in what has been described as the worst terror attacks in nearly three decades.

A Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into the bus they were travelling in. At least 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Jawans were killed and dozens of others injured in a blast in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday, February 14th. The blast was triggered by militants who had targetted vehicles carrying the CRPF Jawans in the north Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir.

Several temples in the Greater Washington Area also held prayer meetings for the victims of the and scores of Indian-Americans also congregated in front of the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 17 in support of India and to express their outrage over Pakistan’s continuing support for terrorist groups that target India.

“We gathered on the lawns of Capitol Hill to offer our Shraddhanjali to martyred heroes of Pulwama terrorist attack,” said Adapa Prasad of the Overseas Friends of BJP-USA, which organized the gathering. Prasad said the Indian-American community of the greater Washington, D.C. area was also coming together on Feb.24 for a “Shraddhanjali Sabha” to pay tribute “to the Pulwama Amar Jawans” at the Rajdhani Mandir in Chantilly, Virginia.

OFBJP-USA president Krishna Reddy Anugula said, “The Indian diaspora has profusely thanked President Trump’s and his Administration’s unequivocal stand against terrorism which is emanating from Pakistan. The community also expressed gratitude and thanked the National Security Advisor John Bolton’s statement on Indian’s right to self-defense and help India in these difficult times.”

In New Jersey, over 600 Indian-Americans, including representatives of various community groups, attended a candle light vigil to pay tribute to the martyrs. The Feb. 21 event was hosted by the Federation of Indian Associations (NY, NJ ,CT) at the Royal Albert’s Palace in Fords. Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac and Councilwoman Nancy Drumm as well as Consul Head of Chancery, Jaideep Chola, attended the event.

On the West Coast, over 200 Indian-Americans living in the Greater Sacramento area gathered at the Lakshmi Narayan Mandir in Sacramento, Feb. 20, to pay tributes to martyred soldiers. Speaking on behalf of all attendees, Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost said: “We, the citizens of Sacramento, hereby pledge that we denounce the terror in any format, in any part of the world.” Others who spoke included Sumati Rao, Consul (Community affairs, Information & Culture) from the Consulate General of India in San Francisco, Easan Katir of the Hindu American Foundation and Indian Association of Sacramento president Dr. Bhavin Parikh.

In Houston, Texas, more than 300 Indian-Americans gathered at the India House to express their solidarity and mourn the killing, the Press Trust of India reported. The meeting was organized by India Culture Center Houston and Indian-American Community of Greater Houston. Also in attendance were Deputy Consul General of India in Houston Surendra Adhana, district representatives of Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, representatives of Reps. Al Green and Dan Crenshaw and Fort Bend county Judge K. P. George.

In Atlanta, Georgia, the Federation of Indian Associations organized a candlelight vigil and prayer meeting at Ashiana Global Mall in Norcross, Ga., Feb. 17. Consul (Administration) Asim Kumar and Consul (Head of Chancery, Community Affairs, Protocol, Security, RTI) Shailesh Lakhtakia represented the Consulate General of India in Atlanta and addressed the gathering along with prominent members of the community and religious leaders.

U.S. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, who represents Illinois’ 8th District, said in a statement: “We come together to send a message of healing and of unity. Together, we mourn those brave lives lost in Pulwama in the face of terror. We stand united against terrorism, and we must defeat terrorism,” he said. “This was an act of terror, an act of pure evil. We must be firm in the face of evil and terror,” he said. “That said, we honor the fallen by not letting the terrorists change what we are or our way of life.”

Indian students at the University of Maryland in College Park, in a statement strongly condemned the attack. “We strongly condemn this dastardly attack and mourn the loss of life and extend our heartfelt condolences to the victims’ families and people of India,” the statement said. In a mark of solidarity various student organizations in the university came together at a silent candle light vigil on Feb. 21.

“American Association of Physicians of Indian origin (AAPI), wants to express our sincere appreciation and gratitude to the United States Administration, the Lawmakers and the public, who have overwhelmingly expressed their deep concerns of the ongoing terrorist activities, particularly the most recent heinous terrorist attack on CRPF personnel in Kashmir today,” said Dr. Naresh Parikh, President of AAPI in a statement here.

Members of the community also held protests outside the Pakistani consulates in New York and Chicago to condemn the attacks. The Indo-Asian News Service reported that at the protest in New York on Feb. 22, police stopped 400 protesters from approaching the consulate building and cordoned them off next to Central Park, across the avenue.

“They protested peacefully for over two hours shouting ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘God Bless America’ along with slogans denouncing Pakistan’s support for terrorism,” the IANS report said, adding that “a delegation went to the consulate to handover a memorandum demanding ‘credible and visible’ action against the perpetrators of the Pulwama carnage.”

OFBJP-USA president Krishna Reddy Anugula told IANS that “the diplomats at the consulate refused to accept the memorandum,” which demanded freedom for Kulbhushan Jadav, who has been sentenced by a Pakistani military court as a spy, and for handing over JeM chief Masood Azhar and Dawood Ibrahim, who is wanted for 1993 terrorist bombings in Mumbai, to India.

In Chicago, Indian-Americans bearing Indian and American flags with placards of denouncing Pakistan for promoting terrorism, walked through the Michigan Avenue corridor with a protest rally in front of the Consulate General of Pakistan in Chicago as well as the Chines Consulate General.

Dr. Bharat Barai, a prominent member of the Chicago Indian-American community, in his remarks welcomed the Indian-Americans and thanked them for their outpouring support and their unfailing patriotic spirit. Barai chastised Pakistan for its continued mayhem with their repeated murderous rampage.

The protest rally was largely led by, among others, Hemant Patel, Nirav Patel, J.D. Digvanker, Shamkanth Sheth, Prasad Yelalmanchi, Amar Upadhyay, Nitin Garg, Pandya, Chirayu Parikh and Amitabh Mittal. Each of them articulated messages that summarized that Pakistan is a hub of terrorism and is constantly manufacturing company of terrorist; while harboring and nurturing them to be the dark men of death.

In a statement, Hemant Patel said, “Terrorism in not only a political issue; it is also an ideological war, which is affecting the entire humanity.” From there, the protesters went to the Chinese Consulate where a memorandum was delivered.

Protesters showed placards denouncing China’s double talk on terrorism. “On one side, China denounces all terrorism. On the other side, China has consistently blocked UN Security Council from proscribing the Pakistani terrorist organizations. Lashkar e Taiba and its leader Hafiz Saeed; Jaish e Muhammed and its leader Masood Azhar have been responsible for many terror attacks including Mumbai terrorist attack killing 176 people and recent Pulwama attack killing 40 people,” the memorandum said.

The Indo-American Kashmir Forum, a long-standing organization comprising Kashmiri Pandits, founded by Dr. Vijay Sazawal, and the Hindu American Foundation, also came together, urging the U.S. to take strong action against the Pakistani-based terrorist organizations, including the JeM and the Laskshar-e-Tayiba, and also the Pakistani government, which continues to support and provide safe havens to these groups that target India.

The two groups, also handed over a joint statement to the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, a former governor of Kansas and a U.S. Senator, who once chaired the Foreign Relations Committee, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback urging “the U.S. government to condemn in all international fora the role played by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and China in providing physical and diplomatic cover to terrorists like Masood Azhar that have wreaked havoc in Kashmir.”

Sazawal, reading out the joint statement before Brownback and the participants of the International Religious Freedom held at the U.S. Capitol on Feb.19, declared, “there is a cultural genocide happening in Kashmir.

“The environment of intolerance at the grassroots level only feeds into the ecosystem which breeds terrorists like Masood Azhar who then carry out such transnational attacks in Afghanistan and India,” said Jay Kansara, Washington director of the HAF.

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