Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Clemency Project

This is a little old, but I thought I'd post a few pictures from the Michigan Battered Women's Clemency Project rally which took place on the steps of the Capitol, October 6. As folks will remember, SAPA was involved in several efforts to bring out Kinnari Sutariya's story, and address the larger issue of domestic violence within the community. I spoke with a South Asian professor (her name is scrawled on whatever sheet I had with me, at the time - yet to be recovered), who spoke on behalf of her at the rally. She spoke in detail about the way the trial unfolded, the lack of consideration by the prosecutor of the cultural issues raised in this case, the issue of arranged marriages more generally, and even a profound sense of remorse for Dr. Ramesh Sutariya, who was killed. But she kept coming back to a simple refrain: the American criminal justice system is failing immigrant women.

Many family members of the imprisoned women were there, with moving testimonials of their daughters and sisters. Former inmates who served their time for acts of self-defense against abusive men, described the trials of their imprisonment. I was left with a simple question, myself: what possible good does it do society to have these women spend year after year in prison? Some speakers took up this question - spoke of the cost of prisons versus the cost of education, spoke of the way the police have handled domestic abuse cases, spoke of Granholm's unwillingness to grant clemency.

For more information: http://www.umich.edu/~clemency/

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Fall Meeting Times

Hey everyone, here are the SAPA meeting times for the rest of the fall. I'll be sending emails the day of, but in case you don't get them - or if I forget... I'm not quite sure what's up with next week, 10.11, but will find out.

Date /Room

9.13 / Sophia B. Jones
9.20 / Parker
9.27 / 2105A
10.4 / 2105 A
10.19 / Crofoot
10.25 / 2105A
11.1 / 2105A
11.8 / 2105A
11.15 / 2105A
11.29 / Crofoot
12.6 / 2105A

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Getting involved with SAPA!

Thanks to Proactive for leading people to the SAPA blog! We don't have an official website, but if you want to get involved with SAPA, you should contact Manan (SAPA Chair) at mrdesai@umich.edu

You can also join the listserv that lets people know about our big events (so the informational list, not one you would join if you want to be super-actively involved, but just kept in the loop on our events). Go to www.directory.umich.edu and then type in sapa.interest or sapa06 and you'll be taken to our list page. Hit "Bind" (in the upper right hand corner), type in your uniquename and password, and then you can hit the "Join" button (on the left side of the screen). You're now on our list and will be getting emails about our major events!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

"Will they intern us like they interned the Japanese?"

This is a great article by David Cole, a professor from Georgetown and the co-counsel to the plaintiffs in Turkmen v. Ashcroft. Many of us have verbalized this same fear and drawn similar parallels, but it seemed less scary when it was one of those "no... that would never happen, right?" sort of statements. But, more and more, we realize this administration seems to have no limits.

If you would like to link to this, here you go.
>From the Los Angeles Times

Manzanar redux?

In an echo of Japanese internment, a judge's ruling allows foreign nationals to be rounded up on the basis of their race or religion. By David Cole DAVID COLE, a law professor at Georgetown University and volunteer attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, was co-counsel to the plaintiffs in Turkmen vs. Ashcroft.

June 16, 2006

'WHAT WILL they do to us if there is another attack? Will they intern us like they interned the Japanese?"

That is the single most common question I get when speaking about counter-terrorism policies and civil liberties to Arab and Muslim audiences. Until Wednesday, I assured them that such a response was unthinkable. The Japanese internment during World War II is now so widely recognized as morally, legally and ethically wrong, I told them, that it could not possibly be repeated.

But after a decision by a federal judge in New York, I'm no longer confident that I can be so reassuring. Dismissing a case challenging the detention of Arab and Muslim foreign nationals in the weeks after 9/11, U.S . District Judge John Gleeson ruled that it is constitutionally permissible to round up foreign nationals on immigration charges based solely on their race, religion or country of origin. What's more, he said that they can be detained indefinitely, even after they have agreed to be removed to their home countries.

In essence, he authorized a repeat of the Japanese internment - as long as the internment is limited to foreign nationals charged with visa violations (a group that at last count numbered about 11 million people).

The case, Turkmen vs. Ashcroft, was filed on behalf of Arab and Muslim foreign nationals swept up on the pretext of immigration charges in the weeks after 9/11. Many were initially arrested on no charges at all - only to be served with immigration papers days, weeks or sometimes months later. All were arrested in secret - in many cases without being allowed to contact anyone - and hundreds were tried in closed hearings that even their family members were not allowed to attend.

They were picked up on the slightest of suspicions. In one representative case, according to the Justice Department's inspector general, the FBI arrested several men on a tip that "too many" Middle Eastern men worked at a convenience store down the street.

Many of those arrested admitted that they had violated their visas and agreed to leave the country, but they were kept locked up for months so that the FBI could investigate them. They were not allowed to go until they were "cleared" of any connection to terrorism. In a complete reversal of the American system of justice, they were treated as guilty until proved innocent.

In all, the government detained more than 1,000 foreign nationals in the first seven weeks after 9/11, and more than 5,000 in the first two years after the attack. Yet as of today, not one of these persons stands convicted of a terrorist crime. From a security standpoint, the roundups were an utter failure.

In Turkmen vs. Ashcroft, the detainees argued that the government denied them equal protection of the law when it rounded them up on the basis of their race and religion, and violated their due-process rights when it kept them after their immigration cases were resolved. The district court rejected both claims, concluding that the government is free to detain deportable foreigners for as long as it wants as long as their ultimate removal is "reasonably foreseeable." And the judge concluded that using race or religion to select the foreign nationals subject to such detention was neither "irrational" nor "outrageous" because the 9/11 hijackers, after all, were Arab foreign nationals belonging to an Islamic fundamentalist group, Al Qaeda.

In other words, the next time we are attacked, the government is free to round up all foreign nationals with alleged visa violations who share the race or religion of the attacker and to keep them behind bars as long as it wishes. If the attack is perpetrated by an Arab Muslim, all Arab and Muslim immigrants are vulnerable. If the attacker is a Latino Christian, the government could round up all Latino Christians with alleged visa problems.

It's true that the World War II internment included citizens as well as foreign nationals, and in many cases, it rounded up people who had done nothing wrong. But what was most offensive about it was the fact that people were selected based on their race. And just as racial profiling of drivers is not acceptable merely because black and Latino drivers stopped are allegedly speeding, so racial profiling of immigrants is not acceptable even if the immigrants are alleged to have violated their immigration status.

WHEN THE Supreme Court in Korematsu vs. United States upheld the legality of the Japanese internment, Justice Robert Jackson warned in his dissent that the precedent would "lie about like a loaded weapon ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need."

Until Wednesday, I thought history had proved Jackson wrong. Virtually every living Supreme Court justice has condemned Korematsu as wrongly decided - Justice Antonin Scalia has compared it to the Dred Scott decision of 1857, in which the court refused to recognize that slaves were "persons." Congress has formally apologized to the survivors of the internment and paid reparations for their injuries.

Yet the Turkmen decision has taken the loaded weapon out of the closet, dusted it off and handed it to federal authorities, giving them explicit permission to let prejudice and fear run roughshod over the most basic of human rights - the rights to equal treatment and liberty.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Hate Crime in New Jersey

Below is an email I got about a hate crime in New Jersey. This isn't something new to the state. The Dotbusters (referring to the bindi worn traditionally by many South Asian women) was a gang started in NJ who would "go to any lengths" to get Indians (or anyone perceived as Indian, I'm sure) out of their neighborhoods. The death of Navroze Mody is one of the most publicized hate crimes around this time. Google for more info, there's a ton.... although i just tried that and it turns out that if you Google Dotbusters and New Jersey, you're likely to get information on this most recent crime, and an allusion to the older ones. Keep looking, it's definitely out there. And any of you who ordered an IASA DVD for this past year's show, Kalakriti, can catch some more information on the short hate crimes video.

Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2006 10:43:08 -0400 (EDT)
From: Sreenath Sreenivasan <ss221@columbia.edu>
To: SAJA E-mail Discussion List <saja-disc@lists.jrn.columbia.edu>
Subject: HATE CRIME: NJ Record on Hindu family targeted

From SAJA E-mail Lists; free sign-ups at http://www.saja.org
[ Sign up for the SAJA Convention, July 13-16:
http://www.saja.org/events/convention2006.html ]

See this story from the town of Wayne, NJ. The writer's e-mail is included
if you want respond to him. Thanks to Hemant Wadhwani -
hemant@unitedcdc.org - for bringing this to my attention. Hemant, BTW, is
a great source on all things NJ if you wish to contact him. He does
amazing nonprofit community work with people in all walks of life and is a
try community leader.

Prof. Sreenath Sreenivasan | sree@sree.net
Dean of Students, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism
http://www.sree.net | http://www.sreetips.com

The Bergen Record
Thursday, June 1, 2006

Bigots target Hindu family
E-mail: crouse@northjersey.com

We Kill U.
We will Fire your house.
Watch Your Kids.

Those threats and other profanities -- spray-painted on a two-story house in
black and orange and neon green -- are terrorizing a Wayne family of five who
police say have been singled out for their Hindu beliefs and Asian Indian roots.

Since the discovery of the vandalism Saturday afternoon, the couple and their
three children have struggled with the brazen nature of the crime and their
inexplicable status as objects of hate.

The father said his three children are aware of the graffiti but he will not
let them see the words scrawled on the back of the family's house, front steps
and rear patio. He and his wife drive straight into their garage and enter the
home from there.

"They don't understand it," the father said of his two boys, ages 11 and 16,
and 13-year-old daughter. "They were born here [in the United States] and they
go to school here in Wayne. They learn what everybody else does. They don't
feel any different from the next kid."

Such is their fear that the couple, who moved into the new house in the Toms
Lake community in November, asked that their name not be published. Several
times during an interview Wednesday, the couple stopped talking and stared at
cars that had slowed or stopped on the street in front of their house.

Police made the crime public for the first time on Wednesday, while
acknowledging the family also had received a series of hateful letters and
found threats painted on their garage door in January. No one had been arrested
as of late Wednesday.

The family said the letters had arrived in their mailbox over four consecutive
days in late January. They opened the first two, finding different handwriting
in each, but were instructed by police to simply turn over the remaining

After that, there had been a quiet period, when the family tried to forget it

Then came Saturday.

"It's ruining our lives," the husband said. "My wife can't even sleep at night."

Police said the crime apparently occurred Saturday after 4 p.m. A neighbor got
suspicious when she saw two individuals, described only as dark-haired
teenagers or men in their early 20s, in the victims' back yard. She then saw
the fluorescent paint and called her husband, who urged her to call police.

The neighbor's husband said Wednesday he was stunned when he saw the painted
words, including "I HATE INDIANS" and others targeting Hindus that are too
vulgar to print.

"You can't believe your eyes when you see it," the neighbor said, requesting
anonymity. "I mean, how do you make sense of something like this?"

Mayor Scott Rumana expressed similar disgust.

"Any action like this is not tolerated whatsoever, and I'm appalled that any
individual and any family would be subjected to this kind of treatment," he
said. "We are all neighbors no matter what religious or ethnic background. We
expect people to be understanding and supportive of that position."

About 1,000 Wayne residents reported Asian Indian ancestry in the 2000 Census,
or about 2 percent of the township's population.

News of the hate crime came as a shock to Jyoti Gandhi, a lay Hindu leader and
past president of Arya Samaj of New Jersey, a Hindu group that meets in
Ridgewood. She said she has never felt discrimination in her home of Saddle
River or in the town where she worships.

"I'm very surprised, to say the least, that this would happen here," she said.
But she speculated that many bias crimes against Hindus may go unreported.

"A lot of times the Hindu families don't say anything," she said. "They just
swallow it to keep the peace."

The Wayne couple said they had had no experience with hate speech prior to this

A 42-year-old businessman who was born and raised in Tanzania, the husband
moved to Passaic with his brother and father when he was 17. He married his
wife, a native of Bombay, in India in 1988 and the two started a family in

Since resettling in Wayne, the couple said, they have had no problems with
neighbors and that most had been friendly. The couple has a small Hindu temple
in their house and pray daily, the husband said.

In recent days, the father has tried to remove the graffiti and splashed black
paint from the back walls and patio, but most of the words remain legible.
Police said its removal by professionals could cost thousands of dollars.

Generally, vandals are charged with third-degree criminal mischief if the
damage they cause is more than $500. If such an offense is deemed a hate crime,
it also could result in a second-degree bias intimidation charge. For adult
offenders, second-degree crimes carry a maximum term of 10 years in state

Asked why the January incidents were not made public at the time, Detective
Capt. Paul Ireland said police had hoped the crimes were isolated instances and
that an arrest would be made quickly.

"We were hoping we would be able to solve it without the public's help," he
said. "At this point we're hoping the public can assist us in finding out who
is responsible for this."

He asked that anyone with information call the Wayne police juvenile bureau at
(973) 633-3540.

Staff Writer Margaret K. Collins contributed to this article.

Monday, April 17, 2006

South Asian Social Movements

Hey folks,

I found this website, which contains a ton of links on South Asian social movements ranging from Gay & Lesbian movements to Labor movements. Should be a great resource for us down the road.



Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Password's been changed!

SAPA members,
check your email -- the password's been changed for the blog.