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Indians stalked in US: Ohio families say they are frequently asked to go back

“Go back to your country” is something that Indian-Americans in Ohio hear frequently. Police there encourage them to approach the cops if they feel threatened.

world Updated: Mar 15, 2017 09:14 IST
Yashwant Raj
People listen during a vigil in Washington in honour of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian engineer who was shot and killed in Kansas.
People listen during a vigil in Washington in honour of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian engineer who was shot and killed in Kansas.(REUTERS)

For residents of Cara Park community in Dublin, Ohio, it was like any other day at their local park where they would gather to take in the evening, play cricket or watch their children run around.

Unknown to the many non-American families living in condominiums that one of them said smell like “dosa sambhar”, a man was filming their evening routine. He would later upload the film on the internet with a conspiratorial commentary about Indians taking over the area, American jobs and white American lifestyle. The man was confronted but he was nearly done by then.

“It was weird,” said an Indian-American who doesn’t live there, but is familiar with the neighbourhood as he is there as often as he can to play cricket, “with a tennis ball”. He didn’t want to be identified for fear of attracting attention to himself or his family in “these uncertain times”.

“The man could have been carrying an AR-15,” he warned. AR-15 is a military-style automatic rifle used in several mass shootings in the US, such as the Newtown school massacre in 2013 and the Colorado cinema hall shooting in 2012.

The video, shot purportedly to highlight the loss of American jobs to foreigners—by Indians in this instance—has taken on a far more disconcerting dimension after the murder of an Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Kansas and shooting of Sikh man, Deep Rai in Washington state.

Both of them were told by their assailants to “go back to your country”, which is something Indian-Americans hear frequently in Ohio, one of the states of the manufacturing belt of the United States crippled by loss of jobs shipped abroad and which were critical to President Donald Trump’s victory.

Rushing to the hospital last November to make it in time for the birth of his son, an Indian-American, who has lived in Ohio for over two decades, said he might have cut lanes, as he was distracted and distressed at the time. “One guy drove up, and yelled to me to go back to my country.”

In another incident, in January, an Indian-American woman found a note stuck to the windshield of her car in the parking lot of an upscale grocery store, Whole Foods market in Dublin. It said, “A note this time, but not next time.”

And just two weeks ago, in February, several “desi cars”, as Indian-Americans said of cars owned by members of the community, were vandalised in Gahanna, Columbus, like Dublin.

Dublin police is aware of the video, and did look into it. “The man is not from our community, he is from out of town,” Lindsay Weisenauer, senior public information officer for Dublin, said over phone.

“At this time, we have no evidence of a law that has been broken,” she added, as his visit to the park was guaranteed under the First Amendment of the American constitution—the right to gather peaceably. “But we would encourage anyone who feels threatened to contact us.”

Lawyers, however, are taking a close look at the video. “We’re investigating the video as well as researching any laws that it may be violating,” Suhag Shukla, a lawyer with the Hindu American Foundation, an bipartisan advocacy group, said in response to a question if it constituted stalking.

“Privacy and stalking laws are very specific and differ from state to state,” he said.