South Asian immigrants living in Queens fear the ripple effects from the terrorist attacks in Mumbai could have dire consequences for the people living in the region who have been the victims of religious persecution.
Dozens gathered at 73rd Street and Broadway in Jackson Heights Saturday to mourn those who lost their lives and urge world leaders to improve relations between the Muslim and Hindu communities. Several vigil attendants said they have become worried that Indian leaders could use the attacks as the basis to discriminate against Muslim minorities within the predominately Hindu country.
Jackson Heights resident Ash Rao, of the South Asian Solidarity Initiative, one of several groups that sponsored the candlelight meeting and march, said the recent public outcry from Indian leaders against Pakistan mirrors some of the same anti−Muslim sentiment that has echoed in America following the Sept. 11 attacks.
“The people of India, Pakistan and South Asia as a whole have a rich, shared history and need peace in order to survive,” he said.
Beginning Nov. 26, at least 10 gunmen orchestrated terrorists attacks at several tourist spots, a Jewish center, hospital and railroad station for nearly five days. Indian law enforcement officers killed nine of the attackers, who may be part of the Pakistani−based terror group Lashkar−e−Toiba, according to published reports, and arrested a tenth man.
The militants have been fighting over the disputed region of Kashmir, located near the Pakistani−Indian border.
Some Indian leaders openly blamed Pakistan for playing a role in the violence, but Pakistan’s government has denied those allegations and pledged to cooperate with the investigation.
Prachi Patankar, 30, who immigrated to Brooklyn from India 14 years ago, said she feared the rising tensions between the nations would undermine the actions taken over the last couple of years to ease the distrustful relationship between India and Pakistan. She cited the controversial Indian law known as the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act, which gave authorities more power to arrest and question terror suspects before it was repealed in 2004.
“It’s already been passed before, and it could be brought back and intensified,” she said.
Many of the people at the event said friendly cooperation between India and Pakistan would be the best way to achieve peace. Eric Beverley, 32, of Woodside, said such action would show the world that the terrorists did not succeed.
“Clearly, this is a group that’s trying to stoke conflict,” he said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at ipereira@t
©2008 Community News Group
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