Skip to main content

Prejudice makes no distinction (Hindu.)

It’s time Indian-Americans in the U.S. involved themselves deeply in civic issues

Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Kansas, Harnish Patel in South Carolina, and Deep Rai in Washington, all well settled Indians in America, were shot at in a span of three weeks resulting in two deaths. The words repeatedly used by their assailants were, “go back where you came from.” While these are the most visible cases of attacks against Indian-Americans, the harassment of the community is far more pervasive since Donald Trump took office as U.S President.

In my own family, spread throughout the U.S., we are hearing stories of insults and innuendoes. A niece in Maryland being told by a co-worker that she will have to go back where she came from, if she was not a citizen (she is); a friend in the DC suburb detained by the local police for ‘suspicious appearance’ and for not carrying an identification (she was simply taking a walk in her neighbourhood as she has done for years). In our family WhatsApp group, we are constantly sharing stories we hear in our communities, reminding each other about carrying identification, staying away from bars in the Midwest, worrying that hate speeches about our ‘foreignness’ could easily end up in gunshots as it happened to the three victims of the crime. Needless to say, it has shaken the Indian-American community to its core.

Faulty terms of engagement?

For the longest time, we were proud to declare that Indian Americans were the true success story in the U.S. After all, even as a relatively young immigrant group (87.2% being foreign born) at 1% of the population (around 3 million), we could claim to have the highest per capita income ($88,000 median household income compared to all U.S. median at $49,800) and highest levels of education (70% of those age 25 and older with college degrees, two-and-a-half times the figure for overall population) of any ethnic group.

We could boast that Indians had truly arrived in America, as prominent writers, business leaders, academics, and even policymakers. We lived and breathed the so-called American dream; we bought expensive homes in American suburbs, sent our children to the best universities and reaped the benefits of the American system. But, by and large, we didn’t engage in the messy issues of civil rights, political participation, or racism. We thought these were not our issues.

We remained attached to our country of origin, going back and forth frequently, contributing to local causes (after all, our dollars could go much further in India, and India surely needed help). Some of us also got very active in the politics of our homeland, especially when it came to right-wing Hindu causes. Like other immigrants, we nostalgically longed to hold on to our sense of belonging in the old country while moving forward with our lives in our adopted country. Secure in our successful American experience, we took the American part of our hyphenated identity for granted.

From my perch as a leader of an international organisation, I often criticised my fellow Indian-Americans for not strengthening their roots in America, not getting involved enough in the civic organisations in America, and not engaging enough in the American issues of the day. In the age of Trump, this is no longer just a good idea. Now the stakes have become dangerously high and the need visibly urgent. While the White House, including the President, continues to deny any relationship between the rhetoric and policies of the new government and the unprecedented spike in hate speech and hate crimes against South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Jewish communities, the truth is that the Trump presidency has emboldened latent racist and ultra-right nativist elements to come out in the open. This has to be the real wake-up call for the Indian-American community.

During the election, a group of Indians, calling themselves “Hindus for Trump,” tried to make a distinction between themselves and other Indians, especially Muslim Indian-Americans, and other brown-skinned people, suggesting that they were different, that they should not be confused with Muslims and, therefore, should not be targeted. As political scientist Sangay Mishra has pointed out, such an approach shows real ignorance about the fundamental dynamics of racism — treating all people of a particular colour or ethnicity as an undifferentiated mass, “erasing individuality, distinctiveness and humanity.”

Now, it is time for this well-to-do community to recognise that criminals who commit hate crimes are indiscriminate. As we know from the assailants of the three Indian victims, they confused their target for Iranians and Arab Americans, or Muslims. It didn’t matter that all three of them were well-to-do, living in comfortably prosperous communities.

It’s time Indian-Americans joined hands with all Americans who suffer from racial, ethnic or social prejudice, Muslims, Arabs, African-Americans, Latinos or the LGBT community, to fight for what makes America the great country that it is, welcoming new immigrants eager to make a new life here, and in the process, constantly renewing the very idea of America, always in the process of becoming, not so much looking in the rear view mirror as moving forward.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

SC asks Centre to strike a balance on Rohingya issue (.hindu)

Supreme Court orally indicates that the government should not deport Rohingya “now” as the Centre prevails over it to not record any such views in its formal order, citing “international ramifications”.

The Supreme Court on Friday came close to ordering the government not to deport the Rohingya.

It finally settled on merely observing that a balance should be struck between humanitarian concern for the community and the country's national security and economic interests.

The court was hearing a bunch of petitions, one filed by persons within the Rohingya community, against a proposed move to deport over 40,000 Rohingya refugees. A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, began by orally indicating that the government should not deport Rohingya “now”, but the government prevailed on the court to not pass any formal order, citing “international ramifications”. With this, the status quo continues even though the court gave the community liberty to approach it in …

Cloud seeding

Demonstrating the function of the flare rack that carries silver iodide for cloud-seeding through an aircraft. 
Water is essential for life on the earth. Precipitation from the skies is the only source for it. India and the rest of Asia are dependent on the monsoons for rains. While the South West Monsoon is the main source for India as a whole, Tamil Nadu and coastal areas of South Andhra Pradesh get the benefit of the North East Monsoon, which is just a less dependable beat on the reversal of the South West Monsoon winds.

India’s criminal wastage: over 10 million works under MGNREGA incomplete or abandoned (hindu)

In the last three and half years, the rate of work completion under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has drastically declined, leading to wastage of public money and leaving villages more prone to drought. This could also be a reason for people moving out of the programme.

At a time when more than one-third of India’s districts are reeling under a drought-like situation due to deficit rainfall, here comes another bad news. The works started under the MGNREGA—close to 80 per cent related to water conservation, irrigation and land development—are increasingly not being completed or in practice, abandoned.

Going by the data (as on October 12) in the Ministry of Rural Development’s website, which tracks progress of MGNREGA through a comprehensive MIS, 10.4 million works have not been completed since April 2014. In the last three and half years, 39.7 million works were started under the programme. Going by the stipulation under the programme, close to 7…