Indian American Forum For Political Education Condemns Assault on Indian Graduate Student at UMass Darmouth

Incident treated as hate crime; IAFPE deplores the growing violence against people of South Asian descent

LEXINGTON, Mass. (June 27, 2003)—The Indian American Forum for Political Education (IAFPE) today strongly condemned the incident that recently occurred in New Bedford in which an Indian graduate student, Saurabh Bhalerao, who was delivering pizza to a group of four men, was first robbed and then beaten and stabbed, called an “Iraqi,” was stuffed in a trunk of a car and driven and dropped off in Fairhaven.

The incident has been reported in the press. One report in the South Coast Today stated, “They mistook him (victim) for being Islamic and the savagery that occurred after that seemed to be initiated from their belief that he was a Muslim,” Chief Souza said. Even after Mr. Bhalerao was lying on the floor, at least four attackers continued to kick and beat him…. At one point, one suspect hit him with a kitchen chair, Mr. Marsh told police.
The perpetrators also burned Mr. Bhalerao’s body with lit cigarettes, police said.” The New Belford police is treating the incident as a hate crime.

Professor Jhaveri, Prof. Sengupta and students of UMass Dartmouth have visited the victim, who is in an intensive care unit of a RI hospital where he has undergone multiple surgeries and can hardly talk. “Doctors have informed us that he will have to be there for several weeks. We come from Gandhi’s India, and are definitely against any kind of violence of this sort,” said Prof. Jhaveri.

Dr. Bal Ram Singh, a professor at UMass Darmouth, whose laboratory Bhalerao had worked in, for two years, said, “I find this incident extremely distressful, particularly to over one hundred Indian students on this campus. Many area community and University community members have contacted us to express their outrage over this brutal incident. We are extremely saddened by such heinous crime against a totally innocent man. It is a shame that such a thing had to occur in a community, which is largely made of immigrants, mostly from Portugal.”

This is a serious matter and we want the authorities to know that the Indian community is very worried and is watching the response with great concern. Only in December of last year another case had occurred in Lowell MA, where three UMass Lowell graduate students from India were assaulted while walking to campus.

The IAFPE condemns the increasing incidents of violent assaults, harassment and threats against people of South Asian and Middle Eastern descent that have occurred in the United States since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The leaders of IAFPE have expressed strong condemnation of this hate related incident against innocent Indian students.

“The repercussions of these attacks go well beyond the individual victim or incidents to all members of the victim’s community. Incidents such as the one in Lowell and now in New Bedford undermine the very ideals of tolerance, religious freedom, diversity and equality that America stands for. We are very concerned about our security and are uncertain about our safety. We would like to see the assailants brought to justice and apply the full force of law including charges of civil rights violation of the victims”, said Dr. Vanita Shastri, President of IAFPE, Massachusetts Chapter.

“We are shocked to hear about this event and would like to note that the Indian community feels insecure about its safety and civic liberties in these times of uncertainty,” said Dr. Ravi Sakhuja, a board member of IAFPE.

“Indeed this is a gruesome and brutal manifestation of unjustified hatred and ignorance. We call on law enforcement officials to provide enhanced protection for targeted individuals and groups, and their homes, places of business, and houses of worship; to vigorously investigate any reports of criminal behavior against them; and to hold accountable those found responsible,” said Shastri.