Indian student from Kerala shot dead in Alabama, one suspect arrested

A 30-year-old Indian student, Neil Kumar, was recently shot to death at point-blank range in Alabama last week. The local police have arrested Leon Flowers suspected for killing an Neil.

Neil Kumar, who was pursuing his Master’s in Computer Science at the University of Troy in Brundidge, Alabama was shot to death in an apparent robbery. The 30-year-old was a student at the Sharjah Indian School and a native of Thrissur in Kerala. Neil was working as a part time cashier at a Gulf Gas station convenience store on the busy Highway 10 when the robbery and shooting took place last Wednesday morning.

NielKumar
source: facebook

 

Three CCTV visuals of the attack were released by the police personnel on Thursday. The visuals, carried by local newspapers, showed the assailant who is dressed in all black with white gloves and was carrying a gun. The time code on the CCTV visuals indicate that the suspect had been lurking around the area of the convenience store prior to the shooting. This suspicion was even raised by the Sheriff of Pike County who is investigating the homicide.

Officers have also told the media that this was the first time in years that Brundidge, which is the second biggest city in Pike County, has witnessed such a violent crime.

Born to parents Purushothaman Kumar and Seema, who are based in the UAE, Neil had been studying in the United States for a year after graduating from a Chennai college. His parents and sisters Neema and Natasha flew in to Alabama on hearing the news. Neil’s funeral will be held on Monday afternoon in Alabama, in the presence of friends and family. Apart from computers, Neil also nurtured a passion for photography.

Several friends and classmates remember Neil as a happy person who left a lasting impression on whoever he met. The community at Troy University also held a memorial for their late classmate.

 


Past stories of crime against Indians

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Newly Published EB-5 Modernization Rules from USCIS: does it impact Indians?

On July 23, 2019, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) regulations to update the Immigrant Investor Program were published in the Federal Register. The new EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program Modernization rules (New Rules) amend the historic Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations governing the employment-based, fifth preference (EB-5) immigrant investor classification and associated regional centers to reflect statutory changes and modernize the EB-5 program. The New Rules are creating quite a buzz in the EB-5 community with good reason. Of particular note, the New Rules modify the EB-5 program by:

  • Increasing the required minimum investment amounts;

  • Providing the long-awaited priority date retention to EB-5 investors in certain cases;

  • Amending targeted employment area (TEA) designation criteria;

  • Centralizing TEA determination;

  • Clarifying USCIS procedures for the removal of conditions on permanent residence fulfilment;

  • Providing for periodic minimum investment increases henceforth; and

  • Implementing a myriad other amendments.

The New Rules are effective 120 days from publication, which is November 21, 2019. The effective date of the New Rules presupposes that Congress will extend the EB-5 Program’s current sunset date of September 30, 2019. USCIS clarified that it will adjudicate investors, who file a Form I-526 petition before November 21, 2019, under the current EB-5 program rules. Now the race is on to initiate and complete investments by the effective date. (Source natlawreview.com)

What is the impact of EB5 rule change on Indians?

The Indian media picked up this story and began analysis of the impact on Indians. However, a fact are worth noting: Although the number of EB5 visas  quadrupled from 100 to 500 (link), this is a reminisce number when one considers hundreds of thousands of Indians waiting for employment based (EB) and family (F) sponsored visas

eb5
image source https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/eb-5-visas-issued-to-indians-quadruple-over-two-years-300818040.html

The reason for so few EB5 visas issued to Indians is not hard to fathom. The number of Indians who have half or a million dollars to spare is minuscule. Those who have a million dollars (6 or 7 crore rupees) to ‘invest’ are probably the crème de la crème of Indian business, government and society. They are not likely to think of ‘investing’ a million dollars for an American Green Card when they can just as easily get long-term visa to other countries around the world.

Harpreet Kaur: First Sikh Woman To Win EMMY Award!

In a proud moment for all the Sikhs present across the globe, well-known filmmaker Harpreet Kaur has recently bagged the EMMY award for producing stories for Maryland Farm & Harvest. Harpreet is a producer at Maryland Public Television, a member station of PBS, USA and the founder of Sach Productions.

The Emmy Award is the premier television production award presented in various sectors of the television industry, including entertainment programming, news and documentary shows, and sports programming. The awards are presented in various area-specific ceremonies held annually throughout the year, honoring excellence in television programming.

Meet Harpreet Kaur: First Sikh Woman To Win EMMY Award!

About Harpreet Kaur

A graduate from Pennsylvania State University, Harpreet was the first Sikh local news reporter in the Washington, D.C. before she turned filmmaker. For over a decade, Harpreet has directed documentaries shedding light on social issues.

Amritha Shakti: Deserve Me (Youtube) music video to represent South Asian women

Check out the interesting video from Amritha Shakti,  an Indian-Australian singer-songwriter daughter of first wave Indian immigrants who moved to Australia in the early 90s. She grew up learning South Indian classical music (Carnatic) and eventually fell in love with soul and jazz.

 

According to a feature in Brown Girl Magazine

Passionate about gender equality and the “divine feminine energy,” Amritha Shakti is channeling her multi-hyphenated experiences into each line, and you’re going to want to keep her on repeat. She breaks down her journey of career lows, loss of self and how she found her way back to music.

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Bali is one of those places that just pulls you in – and if you're soul-searching, it's HEAVEN 🌺 . 🌸Last year, Bali taught me all about my own passion for womxn, the fact that I can't do this all alone and I need a sisterhood, and it taught me that I had a long way to do with self love 🙏🏽 . 🌷This year was different- I realised how far I had travelled in my own self love journey – which was a blessing in itself. But I also learnt the meaning of being open to the Universe – how to let Divine creative energy take control. How to let go and leap into Faith. How to practice gratitude every damn day. . What is it about Bali that makes it so special?! I can't figure it out – but I'll always be back 🌸🌺💕🙏🏽 . Thank you for following my journey SoulTribe – love you and onto Penang!✨✨✨✨ . . Photo courtesy: my wonderful new friend @callmeedo . #womenofcolor #selflovery #selflovecoach #selflove❤ #selflovefirst #selfloveiskey #selflovechallenge #selflovewarrior #healinglight #amrithashakti #womenhelpingwomen #womenofcolour #browngirlmagic #browngirlswhoblog #southasia #southasian #southasianblogger #southasianbloggers #musicthatheals #balihealing #balibabe #spiritualbali #ilovebali

A post shared by Amritha Shakti (@amritha.shakti) on

Indians trolls discover that Boston Brahmins can be Black too!

A week ago, the famous Indian classical artist Sudha Rughanathan announced the wedding of her daughter Malavika, and the wedding invitation went viral on social media. The reason: the groom to be happens to be Black, an African American. Never mind the fact that Mr. Michael Murphy happens to be a well educated, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh; a Boston Brahmin in his own right.

Ms. Sudha Raghunathan happens to be the latest victim of unsolicited public scrutiny and judgmental remarks and incessant trolling, hate tweets and racial taunts. What makes the trolling appalling is the fact that Ms Rughanathan is a well-respected classical musician who was conferred India’s highest honors –  Padma Shri in 2004 and Padma Bhushan. She has performed and collaborated with other artists all over the world, including performances at the United Nations, and the Théâtre de la Ville, Paris.

Image result for sudha raghunathan daughter malavika

Some comments have been especially personal and tangential. A few bigots and Hindu fundamentalists went as far as questioning “her decision” to allow her daughter to marry a Christian. Fundamentalists asked her to relinquish her rights to perform in Carnatic ‘sabhas,’ supposedly a privilege accorded to ‘Brahmins only.’

The comments posted against Ms Malavika proudly introduces her mother at a concert in the US “I cant see a carnati (sic) singers Daughter waring such bhikari dress”

The groom to be, Mr. Murphy seems to be acutely aware of racism, and Brahmanism as he writes in his blog

“There’s a long standing maxim in the African American community that if you want to succeed in this country, you’ll have to work twice as hard as anyone else. Everywhere that I turn I am accosted by images of greatness that continue to exclude the multitude of incredible human beings who happen to be marked by some—more often than not intersectional— difference.”

The trolling issue is sure to blow over soon and become a non-issue soon. As expected, the trolls were soon drowned out by an outpouring of support for Sudha Rughanathan and her family, and articles and columns in the media jumped in, calling for their privacy.

Bottomline: Incidents like this shows the deep-rooted sense of parochialism and bigotry that exists in modern Indian society. Relative anonymity accorded by tools of social media, including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp can enlighten the masses can also exacerbate and amplify such bigotry.

[Image and video posted from public sources]


Articles in the media:

Profiling Anuradha Bhagwati: First south Asian woman US Marine Corps Officer

At 24, Anuradha Bhagwati, become the first south Asian woman officer in the history of the US Marine Corps. At the time, the Yale graduate, daughter of eminent economists Jagdish Bhagwati and Padma Desai was proud to join the elite military force.

Image result for anuradha bhagwati marine

Bhagwati’s famous parents pushed her hard to be a good Indian girl and conform to the desi diaspora’s norms, but she rebelled.

Image result for anuradha bhagwati marine

Anuradha recounts in Unbecoming: A Memoir of Disobedience,

Yet once training begins, Anuradha’s G.I. Jane fantasy is punctured. As a bisexual woman of color in the military, she faces underestimation at every stage, confronting misogyny, racism, and astonishing injustice perpetrated by those in power. Pushing herself beyond her limits, she also wrestles with what exactly drove her to pursue such punishment in the first place.

Once her service concludes in 2004, Anuradha courageously vows to take to task the very leaders and traditions that cast such a dark cloud over her time in the Marines. Her efforts result in historic change, including the lifting of the ban on women from pursuing combat roles in the military.

Bhagwati’s book has also received rave reviews from critics:

“While reading a book to review, it’s usually useful to fold over a page’s corner to make it easy to come back, to reflect on each noteworthy passage…But then you find yourself folding down the next page, and another, and another, until more than half the book is folded down, rendering the tactic useless as a reference but testimony to the story’s potency.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Bhagwati’s book stands out most as a chronicle of overcoming psychological trauma…The book is at its most powerful when she writes about who she became in response to the violence the military trained her to commit.”
New York Times Book Review

Image credits and more about Bhagwati on the website

 

Are Indians still desperate to cross into the US illegally?

The Indian and global media are running heartbreaking stories of the 7-year old girl of Punjabi origin who died while crossing into the US near a remote and deserted US-Mexico border area.  According to the Beast

The US Border Patrol agents found the remains of what is believed to be a 7-year-old girl from India in the Arizona desert on Wednesday morning, according to a Customs and Border Protection statement. The girl was said to be traveling with a group of migrants who were dropped off by smugglers and told to cross into the U.S. in a “dangerous and austere location.”

Tucson Sector Border Patrol agents found two adult women from India believed to have been a part of that group, and they said they made the journey with three others – a woman and two children – but were separated from them. Hours later, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department and Border Patrol agents found the girl’s remains 17 miles west of Lukeville and discovered the footprints of the woman and the other child leading back to Mexico.

Temperatures in the rugged wilderness where agents found her remains on Wednesday hovered around 107.6 degrees (about 42 Celsius).

While CBP agents are reportedly searching the area for more potential group members, none have been located on either side of the southern border. The agency also said the high temperature in the area on Wednesday was about 108 degrees.

“Our sympathies are with this little girl and her family,” Tucson Chief Patrol Agent Roy Villareal wrote in the statement. “This is a senseless death driven by cartels who are profiting from putting lives at risk.”

While my heart goes out to the little girl who lost her life under unfortunate circumstances, I am left scratching my head about the parents decision:

  • What would make a mother with two little girls walk across inhospitable and dangerous desert thousands of miles from their homeland, with two little girls?
  • Is the American dream really worth risking one’s life?
  • It costs thousands of dollars to buy air tickets, get some visas, and to fly half-way across the globe and to hire ‘human smugglers.’ Couldn’t that amount – hundreds of thousands of rupees – be spent in living a decent life and educating the kids?