Highlights

  • Indian-American family kidnapped, killed in USA's California
  • Indian-origin student Varun Chheda killed in university dorm
  • Recently, videos of racial abuses against Indian-Americans went viral

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2 days, 5 murders: Indian-Americans unsafe, 'dotbuster' era back in USA? Kidnappings, killings spark fear

An Indian-American family was recently kidnapped, and murdered in USA's California. On the day that the family's bodies were found, the news of an Indian-origin student being brutally murdered at a university in Indiana emerged.

2 days, 5 murders : America in the 1980s was a scary place for Indians. They were beaten up with bricks, metal pipes, and bats, and some were even murdered, like Navroze Mody. The gang behind all this called itself 'Dotbusters', a threatening reference to the 'bindi' sported by Indian women. Forty years later, are Indian-Americans under serious threat again?

An Indian-American family was recently kidnapped, and murdered in USA's California. On the day that the family's bodies were found, the news of an Indian-origin student being brutally murdered at a university in Indiana emerged.

Were these crimes driven by racial hatred? What is the US government doing to address this problem? And how can the Indian government make Washington take stronger action?

RECENT INCIDENTS

An Indian-American family of four was kidnapped and murdered in Merced, California. Their bodies were later found in a farm. The victims included an 8-month-old girl, her parents, and her uncle. Jasleen Kaur, Jasdeep Singh, Amandeep Singh, and baby Aroohi Dheri were reportedly kidnapped from the office of a trucking company on 3 October 2022, and their bodies were found two days later. Police arrested 48-yr-old Jesus Manuel Selgado, and his family claimed that he had confessed to the crime. Selgado allegedly tried to kill himself, and is now recovering in a hospital. The motive behind the crime is not yet clear.

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Around the same time, tragic news regarding an Indian-American student emerged.

20-yr-old Varun Manish Chheda was killed on 5 October 2022 in his dorm at Purdue University in Indiana. His South Korean roommate Ji Min Sha is the prime suspect. Sha had called the police and informed them about Varun's death. Police said that the murder appeared 'unprovoked and senseless', after they took 22-yr-old Sha into custody. Varun was studying data science at the university, while Sha was a cybersecurity student. Again, the motive is yet to be established.

HATE CRIMES IN USA

What is certain is that racist attacks have been on the rise in America.

According to the FBI - America's top investigation agency - 161 anti-Asian hate crimes took place in 2019, which rose to 279 in 2020. Giving a religious break-up, FBI said that 54 anti-Sikh crimes occurred in 2019, which rose to 89 in 2020. 2019 saw 5 anti-Hindu hate crimes, which rose to 11 in 2020. The tally of anti-Buddhist crimes stood at 4 in 2019, and 15 in 2020. Anti-Muslim hate crimes saw a decline - from 180 in 2019 to 110 in 2020.

Over the years, many physical attacks on Indian-Americans have grabbed headlines. Some of them were even deadly.

In August 2022, four Indian women were allegedly assaulted and abused by a Mexican-American woman. The video of the incident had gone viral. In March 2017, Harnish Patel, a store owner in Lancaster County, South Carolina was shot dead outside his home. The same month, Deep Rai was shot in his arm while he was working on his vehicle outside his home in Kent, Washington.

A month earlier, Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla had been shot dead in a bar by a man shouting racist insults. The incident took place in Kansas City. In 2001, Balbir Singh Sodhi had been shot dead at his gas station in Mesa, Arizona, by a man who said he wanted revenge for the 9/11 terrorist attack.

'DOTBUSTER' TERROR

However, the most organised and distressing period of attacks on Indian-Americans remains the Dotbuster era.

It involved violence against Indian-origin residents of New Jersey. The hate crimes took place in late 1980s. The name of the Dotbusters gang was a reference to the 'bindi' sported by Indian women on their foreheads. Dotbusters threatened Indians to leave the Jersey City area or face violence. Over a dozen attacks, and even a few deaths were reported in 1987-88.

In response, the Indian-origin community in the city rallied and began staging public protests. The protests forced US authorities to focus on security and arrest the culprits. The attacks reportedly stopped by 1989 following the demonstrations.

The list of Dotbusters' victims was long. In August 1987, Bhered Patel was beaten up with a metal pipe inside his apartment in Jersey City. A month later, Kaushal Saran was thrashed with a baseball bat in Jersey City Heights. The same month, Navroze Mody was beaten up with bricks, and he died four days later. In June 1988, Jakariya Kirit was called a "dirty Hindu" and beaten up in Jersey City Heights. The same month, Malkiat Singh was shot dead in Jersey.

THE SOLUTION

At a recent event against racism, called United We Stand, US President Joe Biden had spoken strongly against hate crimes. He had blamed politics, media, and the internet for giving "too much oxygen" to hatred. While Biden speaks out against racism, the fracture in American politics, including over anti-migrant sentiments, is still boiling.

Indian-Americans form the second-largest immigrant community in USA. In such a situation, it might be time for the Indian government to take up the cause at the highest level to push American authorities to stem this hatred at the source.

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