16 Mar

AAPI East Coast panel, held in Edison, NJ, raises concerns about attack against Indian Americans.

Bollywood Actor Arjun Rampal said lack of education and understanding are behind a recent spurt in hate crime against Indian Americans.

Speaking at a conference hosted under the banner of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) East Coast at the headquarters of TV Asia in Edison, NJ, on Sunday, the actor said, “We need to educate [the American public] that immigrants are playing an important role in providing essential services to all Americans, including physicians and attorneys,” among other professions.

Referring to the killing of Indian American software engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Olathe, KS, last month, Rampal said his killer, a Navy veteran, ironically did not realize that his forefathers were immigrants, too.

The star pointed out that India, the land of Mahatma Gandhi, which won its independence through a nonviolence struggle, is the best example of unity in diversity. “Love and education are the best way to defeat hate,” he said. “We all need to unite and communicate with each other. Before the origin of religion or race, we were all humans and we grew as human species because of togetherness and supporting each other.”

Rampal said the words “Get out of my country,” uttered by Kuchibhotla’s killer, are resonating worldwide and they will continue to do so. Back in India, family members and friends of Indian Americans are worried about their safety and solutions need to be discussed and acted upon rather the doing nothing about it, he added.

The conference, titled “Spreading the color of love, not hate,” was organized by Dr. Kavita Gupta and Dr. Sanjay Gupta of the AAPI East Coast on the eve of Holi.

“Recent upsurge in hate crimes towards Indian community are serious concern to all,” Dr. Kavita Gupta, who moderated the panel, said. “Indians living in remote areas are especially scared as they become easily isolated… America is a great country and is a melting pot of all cultures, ethnicity, and races and it should remain that way. Nobody should be scared, intimidated or discriminated because of their religion, gender or race. We are all immigrants here, we all came in different ships but in the same boat now.”

Dr. Sanjay Gupta said hosting the event itself was an eye-opener for him. He said that many experts, corporate sponsors, and community leaders refused to participate because of fear of being isolated and become future targets of hate crimes.

The physician added that he was also told by several people not to discuss the hate crime issue and be quiet about it. “With all this, I am truly appreciative of those who showed the courage to support and participate in the discussion on such an important topic impacting every immigrant,” he said.

Dr. Gupta gave an example of how communication amongs the community will help. His WhatsApp group of 250 top physicians in the US had a posting from a member showing a picture of a person in New Jersey holding sign “No Foreigners Allowed.” Another physician who happened to have access to the New Jersey governor’s office saw the post and immediately brought it to the attention of Gov. Chris Christie, he said. New Jersey now has a hotline for reporting hate crimes, he said, adding that such hotlines should be there nationally for reporting hate incidents, which remain under-reported.

Dr. Gupta mentioned how his dad, who has been going for a morning walk for 15 years, was stopped and interrogated about his identity for the first time last week, while on a morning walk,  and was asked to carry his citizenship identity with him while on a morning walk.

Other speakers also stressed the need to fight hate crimes.

Dr. Sudhir Parikh, CEO of Parikh Media Worldwide, emphasized the role of education in reducing hate crimes and the important role media can play in that.

H.R. Shah, the chairman of TV Asia, said that community needs to come together and do more similar activities. He lauded the initiative of Dr. Kavita Gupta and Sanjay Gupta.

Divya Mathews, ESQ from Navneet Chugh Firm, said that community should not be afraid to speak about this issue.

Hirsch Singh, who is running for the New Jersey governor’s position, said being quiet is not the solution.

Dr. Kavita Gupta discussed the online petition that she has started via Change.org to pass a law in Kansas in Srinivas Kuchibhotla’s name. She appealed all to sign and forward to their friends too.