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Indian Engineer’s Murder Could Spell Doom For Immigrant Economy In US

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“Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.” 

February 22, 2017 is another black (or is it brown) day in America’s long history of racism. An embarrassingly shameful murder case stemming out of blatant ignorance and arrogance under the preposterous garb of patriotism!

Some Americans, in recent times, seem to have taken the above verses from Thomas Gray’s poem, Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College tad too seriously. Some like Adam Purinton, the infamous 51-year-old murder suspect in the recent Kansas shooting.

He claimed the innocent life of an Indian software engineer, Srinivas Kuchibhotla and wounded two men in the same encounter, fellow Indian mate, Alok Madasani and 24-year-old American man, Ian Grillot who valiantly came to their rescue.

After the gruesome murder, Purinton checked into an Applebee’s restaurant where he confessed to the bartender there that he had killed two Iranians. He was quickly arrested after the bartender called 911 and turned him in to the police.

Hate Crime or Drunken Stupor?

FBI investigations are still going on to determine if the murder was the result of a hate crime or an unfortunate accident by a drunk or mentally unstable person. Increasing evidence, however, suggest it was a first-degree murder and first-degree murder attempt owing to hatred on account of race and skin colour.

“Terrorist! Get out of my country”, slurred Adam Purinton to the two Indian engineers, while inquiring about their visa status.

The blissfully ignorant American was under the false impression that the two men drinking in the bar were Iranians. Because, quite obviously, the two men were brown which automatically qualified them both to be evil radical Islamists, shameless illegal immigrants and most probably from Iran.

Prior to the Kansas shooting, another Indian man was targeted in Peyton on February 6, 2017 by a group of racists when his house and car was smeared and trashed with dog poop, eggs and hate messages such as ‘You brown Indian shouldn’t be here’!

Is this the outcome of Trump´s America?

The fundamental question everybody is asking is “Does the President have blood on his hands?” 

Purinton’s “Get out of my country” could very well fit into many of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign winning speeches and there after.

Well, it is too soon to jump to hasty conclusions. Donald Trump is doing what he promised during his election campaign – ‘Make America Great Again’ and ‘Americans First’.

In a fervent bid to ‘Make America Great Again’, Trump’s idea of regaining their old glory is by building a great big wall on the Mexican border, temporarily banning Muslim immigrants from seven Muslim countries, tightening the noose around Visa regulations with tougher immigration rules, acting as President of USA and not the world in reference to NATO and more.

To be honest and fair, Donald Trump doesn’t fail to challenge the existing norm and has kept his promises since he assumed office. He has been elected for a reason.

And no, the reason is not that the American people are stupid.

The reason is the failure of the previous government and the non-acceptance of their failures. You cannot be diplomatic and give rosy speeches and be blind to the plight of the common American people towards the end of the second Presidential term.

But the exact same people who voted for Obama have voted for a change in Trump.

Let us respect the intellect and choice of the common Americans who rightfully and lawfully elected Trump.

Official Condemnation of the Hate Crimes

There was strong condemnation of the Kansas attacks by both the White House representatives and President Donald Trump.

Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary represented The White House as he termed the recent Kansas shooting and vandalism of Jewish centres and synagogues as “disturbing”.

In his first Presidential address to the US Congress, Donald Trump condemned the ghastly Kansas shooting.

”We condemn hate in all its ugly forms, the threats targeting Jewish centres and the Kansas shooting.” 

He also added that while he wants “all Americans to succeed”, the objective cannot be achieved if the country was not safe. Safety could only be achieved by enforcing strict rules against illegal immigration, building a strong wall along the Mexican border and fighting radical Islamic terrorism by destroying ISIS completely with the help of Muslim allies.

“We are also taking strong measures to protect our nation from radical Islamic terrorism. ISIS kills Muslims, Christians, people from all faiths. We vow to destroy it with help of our allies including in Muslim world.”

In the latest news, Trump removed Iraq from the list of countries mentioned in the temporary immigration ban, which by the way never got enforced, thanks to the Supreme Court’s intervention.

With a sizeable 15% Indian representation in the American tech startups, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke for many Indian tech immigrants when he said,

“There’s no place for senseless violence & bigotry in our society. My heart is with the victims & families of the horrific shooting in Kansas.”

The Myths, Misconceptions and Fears – Do We Belong Here?

In a heartbreaking video of Sunayana Dumala, wife of the Hyderabad techie, Srinivas Kochi, she voiced out expressively the fear concerns of the entire Indian diaspora when she questioned the Trump administration – Do We Belong Here?

Donald Trump could get away with a lot of uncalled for and unsavoury remarks while campaigning for Presidential polls. However, with him at the helm of the nation’s affairs today, it would be advisable for him to tone down his loose, brash statements. Lest he fans the fires of ignorance of many more Purintons.

I remember during my stay in America, there were so much ignorance amongst the Americans regarding the rest of the world. The average American has little to no clue about the world that exists beyond their borders. Which is quite shocking considering they are considered as a world leader.

It baffled them how a brown skinned Indian could be Christian or have a Western name. All brown skinned people had to be either Hindu or Muslim.

They were shocked at how well Indians could speak in English or how ‘smart’ we all are. They were even more surprised that Indians could also be as white as an American or like some Mexicans.

They were surprised how drastically different Muslims in different regions of the world were, in language, dressing, look or skin colour, features etc. Palestine Muslims vs Pakistani or Indian Muslims.

In her elementary school, my daughter was questioned by one of the boys in her class if she was a Hawaiian owing to her different features and skin color from the rest of the class.

There is so much fear and insecurity that has crept into the psyche of Indians, thanks to the ignorance of some Americans about the rest of the world.

After Kansas, All are Muslim Terrorists 

Kuchibhotla’s parents, Madhusudhan Rao and Parvatha Vardhini, wept as his body was cremated, recollecting how their deceased elder son felt safe in America. With his unfortunate death, his mother feared for the life of his brother and wanted him to return to India.

To ensure the safety of Indian Americans, the Telangana American Telugu Association has come up with a handy precautionary list of “safety tips”.

Jaganmohan, Father of Alok Madasani, who was injured in the Kansas attack made an earnest appeal to fellow Indian parents to not send their children to the US.

Indian students and professionals who had big ‘American Dreams’ are now scared for their lives and future. They are looking at other prospective options in UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc.

The Silver Lining in the Sky

The present situation does indeed seem grim like the dark, grey clouds. But, there is still hope left in the goodness of the ordinary American people, who rise up to the occasion, turning into real heroes.

Like Ian Grillot, the 24-year-old construction worker who didn’t think twice about risking his life to save the two Indian software engineers. He swiftly stepped in when the shooting started in the bar during a University of Kansas basketball game.

But what was heartening in both the cases was that the Indian victims were quickly received with compassion and warmth by fellow Americans.

Post the Kansas shooting case, Sunayana Dumala posted a lengthy Facebook post thanking her fellow Americans for their love and support – especially Ian Grillot for risking his life to save her husband and his friend, the CEOs of Garmin and Intouch Solutions where both the husband and wife worked, the detectives and the city mayors, Mark Zuckerberg, Satya Nadella, Sundar Pichai, Kamala Harris amongst several others.

The United States is no stranger to stray and random shooting incidents. Innocent school children have lost their lives to mindless gun violence in the past.  It would be safe to assume that most American people are in fact, not anti-Muslim or racist.

Dispensing Mass Ignorance is the Solution

America – A land which is considered to be beautiful all over the world and the most sought after destination to settle stands at the tipping point of losing all respect owing to its mass ignorance and misplaced bigotry.

It would not be a bad idea for our Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make a peace offering to President Donald Trump on his next US trip – Rabindranath Tagore’s  book The Gitanjali. It would immensely benefit the American President to read, absorb and inspire his ignorant mass following with the below enlightening truth –

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high

Where knowledge is free

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments

By narrow domestic walls

Where words come out from the depth of truth

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way

Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit

Where the mind is led forward by thee

Into ever-widening thought and action

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.” 

 

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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