SAALT Calls On Law Enforcement To Investigate Bias As Motivation in Latest South Asian American Killings

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 

South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT), a nation­al South Asian civ­il rights orga­ni­za­tion, mourns the loss of life in sep­a­rate killings of South Asian Amer­i­cans last week in Cal­i­for­nia and Michi­gan, and demands that law enforce­ment inves­ti­gate whether racial or reli­gious ani­mus moti­vat­ed any of these inci­dents.

On May 4, Dr. Ramesh Kumar was found shot dead in his car on a high­way near Detroit, Michi­gan. Hours lat­er in a sep­a­rate inci­dent in Modesto, Cal­i­for­nia, Jag­jeet Singh, a con­ve­nience store clerk, was stabbed to death by a cus­tomer out­side his shop. Racial moti­va­tions have been alleged in both cas­es.

“Our com­mu­ni­ties have faced a hos­tile cli­mate of hate for years, with par­tic­u­lar inten­si­ty since Pres­i­dent Trump took office. This makes race as a pos­si­ble moti­va­tion in these trag­ic killings a very real pos­si­bil­i­ty,” stat­ed Suman Raghu­nathan, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of SAALT. “The Pres­i­den­t’s divi­sive rhetoric and poli­cies have fanned the flames of vio­lence against our com­mu­ni­ties since his cam­paign, and now in his Pres­i­den­cy. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, broad swaths of our nation’s res­i­dents face hos­til­i­ty and vio­lence as a result of the xeno­pho­bic and anti-Mus­lim rhetoric advanced by Pres­i­dent Trump.”

2017 has been a dead­ly year for our grow­ing com­mu­ni­ties, includ­ing trag­ic shoot­ings in Kansas and Wash­ing­ton State, numer­ous arson attacks and van­dal­ism of mosques, busi­ness­es, and homes nation­wide, and mount­ing fear expe­ri­enced with­in our com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try. The nation has seen a groundswell of vio­lence aimed at South Asian, Mus­lim and immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties, with numer­ous per­pe­tra­tors hurl­ing epi­thets before com­mit­ting acts of vio­lence against com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers. South Asians are the most rapid­ly grow­ing demo­graph­ic group nation­wide.

These relent­less and numer­ous tragedies build upon the his­toric vio­lence of the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. In our lat­est report, “Pow­er, Pain, Poten­tial,” SAALT doc­u­ment­ed 207 inci­dents of hate vio­lence and xeno­pho­bic polit­i­cal rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Mus­lim, Sikh, Hin­du, Arab, and Mid­dle East­ern Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties dur­ing the divi­sive elec­tions, 95% of which were ani­mat­ed by anti-Mus­lim sen­ti­ment. Notably, 1 in 5 xeno­pho­bic com­ments came from then-can­di­date Trump.

The Pres­i­den­t’s rhetoric has been imple­ment­ed with dev­as­tat­ing effect via divi­sive poli­cies such as two attempts at a “Mus­lim Ban”, both of which have been halt­ed by the courts. This week the admin­is­tra­tion is appeal­ing a nation­wide restrain­ing order on the lat­est “Mus­lim Ban” in the 4th Cir­cuit Court of Appeals in Vir­ginia. SAALT and our allies ral­lied in staunch oppo­si­tion to the “Mus­lim Ban” as part of the #NoMus­lim­Ban­Ev­er week of resis­tance. Lak­sh­mi Sri­daran, Direc­tor of Nation­al Pol­i­cy and Advo­ca­cy of SAALT, stat­ed, “The Pres­i­dent may be a busi­ness­man at heart, but civ­il rights do not belong at the nego­ti­a­tion table. SAALT, our allies, and our com­mu­ni­ties will con­tin­ue to be at the van­guard of efforts to resist this and any admin­is­tra­tion’s efforts to strip us of our dig­ni­ty and jus­tice.”

Con­tact:  Vivek Trive­di — vivek@saalt.org