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NRI defends US senator's remarks

india Updated: Jul 11, 2006 14:43 IST
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An Indian American political activist, to whom US Democratic Senator Joe Biden made a controversial remark that had raised the hackles of the community, has now come to the rescue of the senator.

Manish Antani, 23, a resident of Nashua, New Hampshire, and a self-described Indian activist, has been quoted as saying that he was "100 per cent behind him (Biden) because he did nothing wrong". 

Biden was caught on a local television network as telling Antani, "I've had a great relationship (with Indian Americans).

In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian-Americans moving from India. You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking," Biden said.

The incident occurred at a restaurant in Manchester, New Hampshire, where a reception was being held for Manchester Democratic state Senate candidate Betsi DeVries.

According to a report in the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper, Antani, who kept quiet for quite some time after the incident, has now said that his not commenting must have been a mistake.

"I thought it was so ridiculous that I didn't want to deal with it," he told the newspaper. "That may have been a mistake on my part."

Recalling the incident, Antabi said, "He (Biden) came in and went around shaking people's hands. I introduced myself as an Indian American and he said that there are a lot of Indian Americans in Delaware.

He started to praise them for being business-minded and entrepreneurial. And then he said many of them were owners of 7-Elevens and Dunkin' Donuts."

He told the newspaper that the senator "definitely got a bad rap" from the national media for his remarks.

"You can tell if someone's going to make a derogatory comment and he wasn't," Antani was quoted as saying.

The senator's remarks had touched a raw nerve in the community with many an angry Indian American calling his remarks variously as racist, stereotyping or tasteless.

Indian Americans comprise less than one percent of United States' total population but they are considered among the most educated and affluent immigrant communities in the country.

On his part, Biden, who is seen as one of the Democratic candidates for the 2008 US presidential elections, has defended himself saying he was quoted out of context.

"I was making the point that up until now in my state (Delaware), we've had a strong Indian community made up of leading scientists and researchers and engineers," he told CNN in an interview.

According to the Leader report, Antani, who claimed that he was a "grassroots member" of the US-India Political Action Committee, has said that he was not yet committed to supporting Biden's presidential campaign. The Purdue University graduate is a registered member of the Democratic Party.

Biden is a ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the key body charged with leading foreign-policy legislation and debate in the Senate.

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