FBI asked to track anti-Sikh hate crimes
Harpreet Singh Saini giving testimony in the United States Senate.
[ Photo credit: Russell Brammer and Sikh Coalition ]
A Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) panel will look into demands to track hate crimes against Sikhs motivated by religious bias in the wake of the Aug 5 shooting at a Wisconsin gurdwara. The FBI's Advisory Policy Board will be asked to look into expansion of current hate crime reporting categories to include hate crimes motivated by anti-Sikh bias, Deputy Attorney General James M Cole told a Senate panel.
The official made the announcement as Harpreet Singh Saini, whose mother was one of six killed by a white supremacist in the attack on the Oak Creek temple in August and several other witnesses asked the panel to urge the FBI to track hate crimes against Sikhs.
More than 400 people packed nearly twohour hearing on "Hate Crimes and The Threat of Domestic Extremism" before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. The hearing was convened by the subcommittee's Democratic chairman, Senator Dick Durbin in response to the Oak Creek gurdwara shooting at the request of more than 150 organizations, led by the Sikh Coalition. "I just had my first day of college, and my mother wasn't there to send me off," Saini said. "She won't be there at my graduation or my wedding day. I want to tell the gunman you may be full of hate but my mother was full of love."
Saini pointed out that the FBI does not count the number of hate crimes against Sikhs specifically, instead lumping those attacks in the anti-Muslim hate-crime category. "I came here today to ask the government to give my mother the dignity of being a statistic," he said. "We cannot solve a problem we refuse to recognize."
As many as 81 members of Congress have also introduced a resolution asking the FBI to track anti-Sikh hate crimes.
Michael A. Clancy, a counterterrorism official at the FBI, testified that while the agency was aware that the Wisconsin shooter Wade Michael Page was a white supremacist, the FBI "never had any information that he posed a threat to any group, particularly the Sikhs."
Indian-origin woman arrested for 'posing' as Columbia student
An Indian-origin woman has been arrested on charges of trespassing on Columbia University's campus after she allegedly posed as a student for nearly nine months and attended classes and orientation events. 26-year-old Birva Patel, who had told the students at the university that her name was Rhea Sen, was charged with criminal trespass.
Students at the university said they had seen her on campus as early as December 2011 and she had claimed to be a junior studying engineering, university paper 'Columbia Spectator' reported. Patel roamed freely on campus, even going on bus tours around the city, taking photos with new acquaintances, eating meals in the university's dining areas and attending orientation events.
Student Affairs spokesperson Katherine Cutler said administrators first became aware of her presence "after several odd interactions with International Student Orientation Program (ISOP) participants." Patel had told fellow students that she was registered for the Columbia Outdoor Orientation Program but had missed the program's departure. She said lived in Philadelphia and was born in India.
Patel did not have a university ID but was still able to get access to classes and venues across campus. She had claimed she did not have her ID with her because she left it with a friend and whenever anyone persisted to see her ID, she would "run off". Students, however, began to get suspicious as she gave differing accounts of where she stayed in the campus hostel. They said they were unsure of where she slept on campus.
"People saw her running around, hiding in bushes, but as far as I know, nobody actually saw her in the residence halls," Columbia student Cami Quarta said.
"Eventually, she tried to make friends with our first-year students, and it just got to the point where her lies were too obvious," another student Louis Lin said.
Other students who interacted with Patel said while she seemed to know enough details about Columbia to make it plausible that she was a student, sometimes she would go blank when asked about basic facts regarding the university. Some students said they had felt "unsafe" around Patel, who appeared "psychotic and weird." Quarta said Patel went with a friend to a Literature Humanities class last week, but when the preceptor arrived, she left the room and waited in the hallway for two hours. Student Affairs notified Public Safety and instructed students to keep an eye out for Patel after realizing she was not a student. When students again came across Patel they alerted Public Safety, who took her into custody.
India takes up case of child in foster care in US
Indian missions in the US have taken up with authorities the case of an Indian couple who have been denied custody of their child after he suffered head injuries in a fall.
US authorities took the one-year-old boy, Indrashish, under their care after the accident at the New Jersey home of an Indian engineer Debasish Saha, 28 on Aug 9. The child is currently in Children's Specialized Hospital, New Brunswick, New Jersey, according to the Consulate General of India in New York. Prior to this, he had undergone treatment at Goryeb Children's Hospital in Morristown, New Jersey.
The Indian mission in NY said Saha had conveyed to it the concern of the couple and other family members that the child has not yet been handed over to them. The consulate said it has also been informed of a case filed by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, New Jersey, in the Morristown County Court.
The consulate said it has requested the US Department of State (Office of Foreign Missions) in New York to have the concerns of the parents addressed.
The Embassy of India in Washington has also taken up the matter with the US Department of State.
Meanwhile the court has asked Saha to suggest names of relatives who could be given the custody of the child.
[ BY HEMA FERNANDO ]