‘We are here to stay’: Indian-Americans protest hate crimes in US

Washington DC: “We are here to stay”, Indian- Americans have vowed while holding a series of meetings to express their concern over growing hate crime incidents against ethnic and religious minorities in the US.

“No matter what gunmen or the President (Donald Trump) say, this is our country, we are here to stay, and we will keep demanding our rightful and equal place in this quintessential nation of immigrants,” said Suman Raghunathan from the South Asian Americans leading Together (SAALT) at a town hall discussion here yesterday.

Initiated by SAALT, South Asian groups are planning to organise a number of similar town halls across the country.

Prominent community leaders who addressed the town hall were Arjun Sethi of the Georgetown University Law Center, Dr Revathi Vikram of ASHA for Women, Shabab Ahmed Mirza of KhushDC, Darakshan Raja of Washington Peace Center and Kathy Doan of the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition.

“This is a seminal moment for our communities to be united for action, to take stock of what our communities need, for our communities to know our rights as we come into contact with law enforcement, and for our communities to build power through deep solidarity,” Raghunathan said.

Indian-Americans also joined Jewish and Muslims for a candle light vigil to express solidarity against the hate crimes that have hit them in recent weeks.

“This is about having peace throughout all communities and religions and races,” Rochelle Berman was quoted as saying by local WJLA TV, an affiliate of ABC News.

“There should be no discrimination based on race, or gender or skin color,” Shruti Vhatnagar told the news channel as the participants lit candles and stood in solidarity.

“Immigrant, Muslim, Arab, Sikh, Hindu and South Asian American communities continue to be targets of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric.

“It remains critical for elected officials to speak out early, loudly and often against hate violence and the policies that fan the flames of violence,” New York Congresswoman Grace Meng said in a statement.

Appreciating the efforts of SAALT in supporting the South Asian community, she hoped that through collective efforts, they can reverse the “horrible trend” of heightened intolerance and violence.

At another round table discussion, Senator Ben Cardin, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, held Trump responsible for the current anti-immigrant atmosphere.

“It starts with the leadership. President Trump’s comments as a candidate and a President is just the opposite of what you need,” Cardin said.

A recent SAALT report documents over 200 instances of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric during last year’s general election.

“There is an acute relationship between policies and rhetoric that criminalise Muslim, Arab, and South Asian American communities and the hate violence targeting these communities,” said Lakshmi Sridaran.

“While the judiciary doggedly blocks the President’s ‘Muslim Bans’, the damage continues to be done as each week uncovers a new inventory of victims of racially motivated attacks,” she added.