Appeal to Indian American Community Leaders.
By now you must be aware of the horrific attack that led to the death of Dr. Divyendu Sinha before his family in Old Bridge, New Jersey. On the evening of Friday, June 25, the distinguished professor had gone on a neighborhood stroll with his wife and two sons. Five teenagers—all aged 17—pulled up in a car and attacked the family without provocation. During the altercation Dr. Sinha fell and hit his temple, and was declared dead on arrival at the hospital. While this senseless, abhorrent attack failed to draw serious mainstream media attention in America, it rightfully spawned outrage within the Indian community. In just last three days more than 4000 people—Indians and Americans alike–have expressed their outrage on the website https://justicefordivyendufamily.wordpress.com/ set up for the Divyendu family.
Our community has come a long way since 1987, when the dot busters gangs attacked Indian Americans in Jersey City (when the hate crimes peaked between 1987 and 1993). We have learned to come together to respond to issues that are threatening our larger community. But we cannot be complacent. Even five years after Geetha Angara was murdered at her work place in Totowa, New Jersey justice has not been served. We now understand this happened because of the destruction of key evidence at early stages combined with a lack of sufficient attention from the media and the community. The brutal murder of Dr. Sinha needs the community to come together quickly so that evidence may be properly collected and the assailants may be rightfully tried. We must also ensure that the bereaved family, which lost its sole breadwinner, will be cared and provided for.
We must realize that if we do not act promptly and decisively, every possibility exists of more such attacks in the future. One of the persons commenting on the website mentioned that there were some facebook pages glorifying the murder. While that needs to be substantiated, given the past experience, it is critical we send the right message to those who think Indian Americans are easy targets and that we are a community that is strong and united. Proper investigation is needed to find out if there was racial motive; fact, as reported by the police that these hoodlums tried to harass another non-Indian American driver of a car just few minutes before they committed this gruesome murder should not have any bearing in judging if this indeed was a racial attack.
We are fortunate that as the number of Indian Americans rose, many have chosen to dedicate to serve the public cause and take various positions in state and local administrations. But if those in the elected bodies or in the administration do not stand up for justice, out of fear of losing mainstream support, then they severely undermine the community’s standing. We have already heard of an Indian American official in the Old Bridge administration who said at the Old Bridge Town Hall meeting that the crime against Divyendu was not a hate crime. Such a premature declaration is unacceptable to the Indian American community as the official police investigation is not over yet. There are also others who are not speaking up or not speaking up enough. When we stand behind the truth and establish our viewpoint in a fair and objective manner, we will be respected and supported by the majority of the American mainstream.
We understand that many members of our community have already offered their precious time and resources to building temples, running cultural organizations and raising support for organizations in India and the United States. However, it is imperative that we act together now on this issue before us. As the wise saying goes, no amount of water will help a man who has already died of thirst. Likewise, no amount of work done retroactively will help the case of Dr. Sinha if we miss our critical window of opportunity.
Various activities can be planned if there is adequate support. Several people are urging a march or vigil but such steps will be effective only if there is strong showing of support. While larger participation of community leaders in various organizations is requested and is necessary, your immediate help can be as simple as the timely propagation of email messages to all the members of your local community organizations, urging them to keep continued pressure on the police, the prosecutor and the politicians, and to provide assistance to the family.
Please let us know if you will be able to help by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org (or respond to this email). Updated information will be on the website at https://justicefordivyendufamily.wordpress.com/ .
Account of funeral (on June 30th) from a visitor and appeal to help the family (if you have not read it already)
Few hours ago my family visited Divyendu Sinha’s funeral. We saw many hundreds of people across the cross section of races whose lives Divyendu and his family touched.
It was heart breaking to see his wife and two teenage sons who lost their loved one in a senseless attack. What is tragic is they have to bear the loss with the images of the the brutal attack done in front of their eyes, for no reason, no provocation while they tried to stop helplessly.
Those who came up and gave eulogies are from the cross sections, from his past PhD student who said how he used to enjoy Indian food at their home, to his manager at Siemens who could not control his grief and sorrow and pledged to do his best to see the family through, to the faculty member at College of Staten Island who want to start a scholarship (or funding) program in his name and many friends who accounted their memories and his scholarship. The priest who conducted the ceremony has done a great job of informing the ceremony procedure to those who are not acquainted.
Though this loss is primarily to his family and to his close relatives and friends, but it is also that of larger community. If one family is insecure, it is insecurity for all of us. It could be anyone of us. We do not know the motives of those who attacked, it could be racial, it could be first easy target they found to perpetrate their gruesome violence and perhaps Indian Americans in their view are easy targets. The bigger issue is whether the administration will handle this fairly. Given the past history, such as family of Geetha Angara from Holmdel, NJ who was brutally murdered at work place is still waiting for justice even after more than five years shows it is imperative that community come together to bring justice.
What next? While we are attentive to this now, it cannot be a matter of first few days. The family has to continue and they would need support, emotionally, financially and legally. The family has to go on and there are two teenagers who needs to go to college. (Please see the website https://justicefordivyendufamily.wordpress.com/how-you-can-help/ on various steps you can take to help). We have to ensure that justice is done to the family and community can play a big role in showing support. Many times these cases are diluted with the affected getting little support in the end. This case has to be pursued effectively in both criminal and civil courts. The civil courts have to pursued to ensure that the family is compensated adequately for the loss of sole incoming member of the family.
In helping them we are helping ourselves. We have to come together as a community and be their larger family.