India Abroad May 2, 2014 A35 US NEWS
The New York Police Department disbanded its surveillance program, named Demographics Unit, which
targeted and monitored Muslim communities after 9/11. The program was known as
the Zone Assessment Unit in recent years.
The unit was set up in 2003, but has been
largely inactive since Police Commissioner
William Bratton took over the department
this January, and its detectives have been
reassigned, a statement from the NYPD
The program deployed undercover detectives in Muslim neighborhoods to eavesdrop on conversations and watch day-to-day activities. Police also infiltrated
mosques and student groups.
The plainclothes detectives spied on people, communities inside and outside the
city, overheard conversations, and built
detailed files on where people ate, prayed
and shopped. But it never led to any major
‘It has been determined that much of the
same information previously gathered by
the Demographics Unit may be obtained
through direct outreach by the NYPD to
the communities concerned,’ the police
During the election, Mayor Bill de Blasio
said he was deeply troubled by the program.
Despite investigations that stretched for
years, the police department’s efforts never
led to charges that a mosque or an Islamic
organization was being used as a terrorist
‘Our administration has promised the
people of New York a police force that
keeps our city safe, but that is also respectful and fair. This reform is a critical step
forward in easing tensions between the
police and the communities they serve, so
that our cops and our citizens can help one
another go after the real bad guys.’ Mayor
de Blasio said in a statement.
Muslim organizations welcomed the
move, but said they were still apprehensive.
“We should not confuse this for victory.
There are many unanswered questions
about whether the already collected data
will continue to be used, and whether pro-
filing practices will continue in other
forms,” Monami Maulik, founder and exec-
utive director, Desis Rising Up and Moving,
DRUM will continue to call for an end to
the collection and retention of any data that
is unrelated to criminal investigations or
leads, and the segregation of any data that
has already been collected out of the reach of
‘Based on the personal experiences of
DRUM families, youth, and workers, it is
evident that the Demographics Unit was
only one small portion of the larger NYPD
surveillance programs. Intelligence Chief
John Miller’s comments that the information could be collected by other means raise
serious concerns about whether this will
constitute substantive change,’ a statement
from DRUM said.
Fahd Ahmed, legal and policy director,
DRUM, stressed on the need for “full
accountability of the past policies and the
harms done to families, as the most impor-
tant step to creating any meaningful and
Dr Shaik Ubaid, co-chair, Muslim Peace
Coalition, welcomed NYPD’s decision.
“The program undermined the constitu-
tion and wasted the resources. Not a
single arrest was made because of the
spying and it alienated the community. It
also helped spread Islamophobia,” he said.
“We had boycotted social interactions with
the former mayor and commissioner
demanding an end to the blanket surveil-
lance as unconstitutional, useless and a
waste of resources. Interfaith leaders and
civil rights organizations were supporting
Linda Sarsour of the Arab American
Association of New York said the
Demographics Unit created a psychological
warfare in the community.
‘Those documents showed where we
lives. That’s the cafe where I ate. That’s
where I prayed. That’s where I bought my
groceries. They were able to see our entire
lives on those maps. And it completely
messed with the psyche of the community,’
The Demographics Unit was the brainchild of the Central Intelligence Agency
officer Lawrence Sanchez, who helped
establish it in 2003 while working at the
Protestors argue the New York police is encouraging intolerance with its training practices
at a rally in 2011.
NYPD disbands Muslim surveillance unit
ductive legislator as I was busy learning
how the system works in the first place,” he
As for the coming election he has no
promises to make unlike other politicians.
“I do not believe in making any promises
since I have no way to know that I can keep
them,” Dr Gandhi said.
He added that he was closely following
the Lok Sabha elections in India. He hoped
that Rajmohan Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s
grandson and an Aam Aadmi Party candidate in Delhi, would do well.
“Thanks to India Abroad for keeping us
abreast about the world’s biggest election.
The results I believe will affect the whole
world,” he added.
Dr Gandhi’s father, Kantilal was the son
of Harilal, who rebelled against his father,
Dr Gandhi came to the United States in
1967, as a medical graduate from Grant
Medical College in Mumbai. ‘A hospital in
Youngstown, Ohio, offered me an intern-
ship position and my father encouraged me
to take it. My parents were not rich by any
means, and I wasn’t either. Fortunately the
hospital agreed to loan me the airfare, and
that is how I landed in the US. It was my
first flight,’ he noted.
He met his wife Susan, a registered nurse
in Youngstown, Ohio, and they married in
Three of their daughters were born in
Michigan, while he was in training there.
‘During those six years my annual salary
went up from approximately $5000 to
$8000 in the final year. We managed to live
within our means and paid the taxes too,’ he
said, adding that whether it was a family or
state fiscal control was important.
Otherwise the country would experience
what Greece or Spain went through.
“We should learn to live within the
means,” he said.
As a heart surgeon for 33 years, Dr
Gandhi said he was worried that the US
was lagging behind in medical research and
His wife is a Methodist and regularly
attends The First United Methodist Church
in Topeka and sings in the choir.
He has a younger brother Pradeep
Gandhi, an accountant working in
Shanti Gandhi seeks
reelection to Kansas House