The 911 ambulance call transcript speaks of an ‘older
The incident is clearly the fruit of a potent mix of
racism, xenophobia over a man who spoke no English,
These bloggers need to speak to Hindus and Indian
Americans in Alabama to hear countless stories of being
targeted for their color, ethnicity, and religion in their
motels and stores and in their schools, and perhaps hear
testimony of how they face down Hinduphobia and
aggressive proselytization before asserting that Parker
was immune to the context in which he worked.
They should see those pesky signs on highway motels
throughout the South touting ‘American owned’ as a not
so subtle dig against that Indian owned motel across the
street, and the Confederate flag bumper stickers that
don’t distinguish between black and brown.
Indian Americans, most of whom are Hindu, were processing their own vulnerability, but an instant later,
prominent South Asian voices were belittling their voicing outrage. The implication was stunning: It is okay for
Sikhs and Muslims to call out racism against their community, but when Hindus do it, it’s just a case of mistaken identity, and a failure to address anti-black racism.
With the now viral dashcam footage and audio evidence, it’s hardly a surprise that Parker was fired and
arrested. The same should have happened in Eric
Garner’s case. But must the bloggers claim that a paralyzed Patel lying on a hospital bed enjoyed Indian privilege because his perpetrator was punished — and that
his pain was meant for someone black? That the outrage
of his son and community was a false equivalency?
Some go on to present a baffling choice to Indian
Americans: Educate local police departments with sensitivity and cultural competency training or work with
other ethnic and religious minorities to fight for change.
But why this false binary? Why must Hindus and
South Asians choose? Why not thoughtfully do both?
The HAF has worked in diverse coalitions to combat
bigotry and hate — with the Department to Justice,
Department of Homeland Security, State Department
and through education reform at local levels. Even if the
attack on Patel was not prima facie anti-Hindu, would
the community not be better served if law enforcement
was sensitive to possible language barriers, cultural
practices, or body language in its dealing with Hindus?
We think it would.
Suhag Shukla is executive director,
Hindu American Foundation.
That’s not to say that Muslims don’t face
discrimination; it’s just that they are more
‘people like us’ than Hindus.
The other recent incident was of three
Muslims shot dead in a university town,
and the first reaction was this was a hate
crime, although there was some talk of
ongoing animosity over parking space.
The hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter began
to trend. And it is true, Muslim lives do matter. (But these were white (Arab or Turkish?)
Muslims, so they did not face racial prejudice, only religious bias at worst.)
But how come #HinduLivesMatter
didn’t start trending in the unfortunate
case of Sureshbhai Patel? Do Hindu lives
actually not matter? Perhaps they don’t
matter even in the subcontinent, as the
media and intelligentsia have devalued
Hindu lives (Muslim and Christian lives
do matter, though: Think Graham Staines
and Ishrat Jehan and compare them to
Rajbala, beaten to death by a Delhi
Congress government for the crime of
attending a Yogi Ramdev yoga camp.
Rajbala who, did you say?)
Jews have a lot to teach Hindus. Once
upon a time, Jewish lives didn’t matter:
Kristallnacht, Warsaw Ghetto,
Buchenwald, Auschwitz, etc. I was at
UNESCO in Paris, and there is an arresting exhibition there about the Shoah and
death camps and the way ordinary Jews
were rounded up, stripped, robbed and
shot into mass graves. Having Israel as a
strong state that would stand up for the
rights of Jews made a big difference.
Unfortunately, anti-Jewish sentiment is
making a major comeback in Europe —
which goes to show, prejudices die hard. I
saw a telling headline in a French magazine (‘What does it mean to be Jewish in
France?’). I suspect the answer is: ‘Live in
fear.’ Oh, let us note that, if I remember
right, Hinduism is not even recognized as
a religion in France, Italy etc, while
The other lot that has escaped from the
prejudices long held against them are East
Asians. This obviously has to do with the
prosperity of Japan, Korea, and now
China. The fact that China aggressively
exposes Western hypocrisy may also be a
reason why they get some respect: For
instance, whenever there is talk of human
rights, China produces long lists of abuses
in the US, whereupon the latter shut up.
On the other hand, India has never
stood up against that ragtag bunch of religious bigots known grandiosely as the US
Council on International Religious
Freedom, whose single-point agenda is
the conversion industry.
The Indian government needs to act
strongly to protect its citizens’ rights when
abroad. What India did in the case of
Devyani Khobragade is salutary. A lot of
noise was made, and unreciprocated privileges US diplomats enjoyed were taken
away. The then US ambassador essentially
At this point with the Sureshbhai Patel
case, the US ambassador, ironically an
Indian-origin person, should be called on
the carpet and given an earful. There is no
reason to be meek when the rights of your
citizens are trodden on.
Just as China does, India should form a
‘Commission on Racial and Religious
Freedom,’ and document the terrible
crimes in America. I was reminded of the
cle in the Financial Times on Ukraine. It
quotes Thucydides in the History of the
Peloponnesian Wars about the Melians,
who petitioned attacking Athenians for
clemency:‘You know as well as we do that
right... is only in question between equals
in power, while the strong do what they
can and the weak suffer what they must.’
Exactly. Unless India is strong, or at
least projects the impression that it is
strong, the West will walk all over it.
I was skeptical of Obama’s ability during
his India trip to avoid the malignant influence of USCIRF, and so it turned out to
Despite all the talk of trade and defense
and containing China, and nuclear reac-
tors and all that good stuff, at some basic
level, the Christian abhorrence of the old
religions comes to the fore: for them, it is
‘Pagan, convert or die!’
Not all that different from ISIS, alas,
except that ISIS is more direct in its big-
otry, unlike the al-taqiya wielding mis-
sionary who, like a boa constrictor, digests
culture, land and people.
This is how it was when Cortes and
Pizarro devastated Latin America, and so
it is now in India.
Rajeev Srinivasan is a columnist
for Rediff.com, which publishes
WALKING WHILE BROWN
The urgent need for police sensitization
Police officers arrest a demonstrator during a protest against police violence towards minorities, at New York’s Grand Central station, January 15. A N D R E