After the murder of a man from India by a hate-oriented racist in Kansas

March 1, 2017: India Civil Watch condemns the murder of Srinivas Kuchibotla by White nationalist Adam Purinton on Wednesday, 22nd February, 2017. We offer our deepest condolences and solidarity to Srinivas’ wife Sunayana Dumala and his family, his friends and colleagues. We also wish strength and speedy recovery to Alok Madasani and Ian Grillot. While it is noteworthy that the FBI has announced its intention to investigate this case as a hate crime, the reluctance of the local Olathe City Police Department to promptly prosecute it as such raises serious concerns.  Any attempt by the authorities to limit prosecution to manslaughter in such a case would dangerously embolden racist and xenophobic elements in our society and make Mr. Grillot’s courageous intervention meaningless.

This is also a moment for Indian communities in the U.S. to reflect, take stock, and prepare for the oncoming weeks and months of struggle against a rising tide of racism and xenophobia. While caution and care are important in the current American political environment, it is important that such caution not turn to defensiveness that emboldens white nationalists and racist bigots. In a recently released list of dos and don’ts, a prominent Indian-American community organization recommends behavioral changes such as not speaking in one’s mother tongue in public. Even as our communities feel under siege and are scrambling to figure out ways to keep themselves and their families safe, we must ask ourselves if the erasure of our very identities is not too high a price to pay for our presumed safety. Let us also remember that no amount of obedience and conformity to the rules of White supremacy will buy us peace or dignity. Rather, such a voluntary surrender will only push back democratic rights of all immigrants and minorities. Speaking only English in public spaces will not make us ‘white,’ nor give us any cover against racism. Instead, this is the moment for us to talk with others – especially other people of color and immigrants – in our workspaces, in our neighborhoods, and other public spaces.

We must get organized in broad coalitions with others who care and intend to defend immigrant and minority rights: African-American, Asian-American, Latinx, White and other immigrant groups. This is the moment to research, locate and get involved with local immigrant, civil or human rights organizations. Our strength lies in our recognition that most of us are here as workers, whether we drive taxis in NYC or write code in the Bay area, and the only way forward  is to build solidarity with other workers, regardless of where exactly we might be located on the economic ladder. That the U.S. economy rewards each of these workers differently must not blind us to the fact that we are all targets of racist discrimination, and that the relative wealth of some of us only appears to insulate us from violence. This recognition also binds us to the Mexican immigrant farmworker in the tomato fields of Florida, and to the African-American worker doing overtime in the Detroit factory. When we hear white supremacist rhetoric about who rightfully belongs in the United States, let us remember that Garmin Corporation operates in 60 countries and that Goldman Sachs’ capital circles the world everyday. When global capital has no barriers, why should the global worker? Immigrant workers have a right to be in the U.S.; in other words, “We are here because you are there.”

While working in solidarity and building community with others targeted by White supremacy is key to opposing the politics of hate inaugurated by the Trump administration, it is equally important that we examine our own attitudes to the politics of hate at ‘home.’ Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are not very different from Donald Trump and Steve Bannon; the Alt-Right and the Freedom Party not too distant from the RSS and the BJP. While we might voice opposition to being affected by U.S. racism, too many of us remain silent on Hindu supremacist violence against minorities and Dalits in India, and about anti-blackness in the diaspora. It is crucial that we as immigrants commit ourselves actively to anti-racist and anti-caste politics, and to ethnic and religious solidarity in both the U.S. and India.

India Civil Watch is a collective of Indian-American activists, professionals and intellectuals committed to furthering progressive politics in the USA and India. For more information about resources in your local area, write to indiacivilwatch@gmail.com  


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