The recent murder of an Indian-American has sent shockwaves of sadness and fear throughout the entire Non Resident Indian (NRI) community in the United States. The media reports of this tragic hate crime in which a 51-year old resident of Olathe, Kansas shot two Indian engineers Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani and good samaritan Ian Grillot who attempted to prevent the shooting at a local bar appear to record the first reported racial bias motivated fatality in the United States after the bitter Presidential election. Srinivas was only 32 years and has lost his life because of the erroneous belief of a fundamentalist!
The response from Hon. Minister of External Affairs Mrs. Sushma Swaraj has been commendable. The fundraiser set up by the well wishers of Srinivas has drawn support from so many kind hearted people. Many Indian organizations across the United States have also organized candlelight vigils this week to mourn the untimely loss of a member of the Indian community and to draw attention to this odious hate crime.
In the wake of this tragedy, I am reminded of a conversation that I recently had with Ron Davis during a pilgrimage that we had organized for victims of violence to India. Ron’s son, Jordan was brutally murdered few years ago, in a racially motivated shooting at a gas station in Jacksonville. He shared that, even while fighting to get justice for his son, he had set up a non profit foundation to provide young people with exposure to cultural initiatives through travel and education so they would have a broader perspective about life. To me, he is a shining example of nonviolence and love in action.
Race based violence is not new to the United States. However, today, as NRI’s we are shocked (and rightfully so) as now the act of race based violence has affected our Indian community. Yes, we need to be very concerned because given the highly charged social and political climate in America, such an act could happen anytime, to any one of us. What makes the sadness reverberate so much more in our hearts is the recognition that despite our contributions and love for the US, we are still unknown, untrusted and unsafe in our adopted home.
Today, as we mourn the loss of Srinivas, I hope that as a community, we can find inspiration and take concrete actions that would leave a lasting legacy for Srinivas and millions of others like him that are unfortunate victims of racial violence in America. Otherwise, we are paying the price of inaction and will have ourselves to blame.
In my humble opinion, as Indians, we are carrying in our DNA the seeds of peace and nonviolence. After all, wasn't it the trip to India that gave Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. the spiritual strength and wisdom to fight injustice during the Civil Rights movement? Upon his return from India, Dr. King wrote, “I left India more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to people in their struggle for freedom and human dignity.”
As Indians, we have to feel proud that our ancient culture and spiritual wisdom have something unique to offer, even today, to reinvigorate nonviolence in America. We need to put more effort to share our cultural strengths with the broader American population in this time of suspicion and fear that will take down the wall of ignorance that keeps distance between our cultures and our neighbors.
Isn’t violence of any sort not merely a sign of one’s inability to manage the mind, intellect, ego and emotions?
Isn't racial violence merely a sign of ignorance of scientific progress?
India’s ancient culture - our festivals and celebrations, our food habits, our family values, the science of yoga, ayurveda and meditation - are all deeply soaked in creating and promoting harmony - both within and around us - encouraging us to transcend our limited identities and to unite with everyone going beyond caste, color, religion or creed. Today, we know, as Bill Nye, the science guy explains that - we are all the same race - one human race. Our skin color is simply the "presence" or "absence" of a pigment in the skin called melanin! However, this wisdom was known to India’s sages thousands of years ago when they referred to the whole world as one human family - Vasudhaiva Kutumbhakam.
We need to even more vocally and strongly share the science and social relevance (value) of different aspects of our ancient culture including festivities like Diwali, Holi, Raksha Bandhan, Navratri, and technologies like yoga and meditation.
As the senseless violence continues in America, we, Indians will need to play a bigger role in maintaining a vigil for peace and nonviolence in our neighborhoods and communities. While doing this work, we need to heal the hearts of those who have been unfortunate victims of violence and also participate even more in understanding and solving community issues - acting as catalysts for happiness, peace, love and nonviolence in the towns and communities where we live or even at our place of work?
I know that we can do it. If not us, who will…
Arise O India!
From India With Love