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PIX: Indian Americans rally in support of Dharun Ravi

Last updated on: May 15, 2012 14:39 IST

Indian Americans rally in support of Dharun Ravi

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Arthur J Pais in New Jersey

More than 500 rally in Trenton, New Jersey, in favour of no prison time for ex-Rutgers student Dharun Ravi convicted of a hate crime, reports Arthur J Pais.

"If this kid ends up in jail on May 21, my faith will be shaken in this country," Sandeep Sharma, a family friend of Dharun Ravi and who had mentored the 20-year-old former Rutgers student during a summer break, announced at a rally. Organisers and news media assessed there were at least 500 peaceful protestors including a few non-Indians and white gay people.

The rally, which many people said was unprecedented for the Indian community, was held  in Trenton, New Jersey, on Monday in front of the State House and called for the former Rutgers student to receive no prison time for the hate crime conviction he received for using a webcam to spy on his roommate Tyler Clementi and another man kissing.

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Image: Members of the Indian American community and others protest against hate crime charges against Dharun Ravi, in New Jersey on Monday
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Indian Americans rally in support of Dharun Ravi

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Carrying Indian and American flags, men and women joined Ravi's parents, chanting 'Free Dharun Ravi' and 'We Want Justice'. Ravi's sentencing is set for May 21; his defence team has filed an appeal and had sought to have him free on probation. But the prosecutors rejected the plea saying that Ravi had been offered community service task before the trial but he insisted on a trial.

Anil Kappa, who like Sharma attended most of the trial in a New Jersey court, is another Ravi family friend and business associate and one of the organisers of the rally.


Image: Dharun Ravi's parents speaking to the media during a support rally in New Jersey
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Indian Americans rally in support of Dharun Ravi

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"There was no hate crime," he declared. "There was no bias, he was not homophobic. He was not a bully. He's been tried for all of that and we want that to be dropped and it has to stop...You want a scapegoat for the bias law there are other bullies out there. There are homophobics doing those things. Go pick them. This is the wrong case. This is the wrong kid. Yes, he did something stupid but he did not do this out of hate or bias."

Kappa had also told the court during the trial that he had never heard Ravi say anything against gays and lesbians, though he admitted he had not talked with Ravi in the weeks leading to the web scandal in September 2010. Clementi, 18, committed suicide soon after he discovered that Ravi had spied on him but Ravi was not charged with Clementi's death. And the defence had asked for Clementi's suicide note be produced in court but was overruled by the judge.


Image: More than 500 rally in support of Dharun Ravi in front of the State House in Trenton, New Jersey, on Monday
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
Tags: Clementi , Ravi , Kappa

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Indian Americans rally in support of Dharun Ravi

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Businessman and community leader Pradip (Peter) Kothari who did not know Ravi or his parents till recently, said people from different walks of life came from the rally even though it was held on a Monday morning. "I have been here for a very long time but I have never seen such electrifying atmosphere and demand for justice," he said. "Everybody today was a supporter of Ravi. Everyone was thinking that this kind of injustice could happen to his or her son or daughter tomorrow." 

But he said was unhappy there were hardly any community leaders. "They want to please local politicians and they are scared of standing up and fighting," he said after the rally, speaking from his office. "We want to be first class Americans but we are afraid to speak up for your rights and that means we will end up as second class Americans. But today the ordinary people put our community leaders to shame by not being afraid and speaking their minds openly and peacefully..."


Image: Indian Americans protesting against hate crime charges against Dharun Ravi, in New Jersey on Monday
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Indian Americans rally in support of Dharun Ravi

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He said while the prosecutors were eager to slap Ravi with a hate crime, many hate crimes against Indian community and businesses in New Jersey have not received proper attention from the authorities. "The windows of my house have been broken over a dozen times in the last two decades but where are the arrests?" he said.

The gay activists led by the outspoken Bill Dobbs carried a sign including a statement by former Gov James McGreevey: 'Don't make Dharun Ravi Our Anti-Gay Scapegoat.' McGreevey, a married man with children, had resigned as New Jersey governor following a sex scandal and came out as a gay.


Image: Members of the Indian American community with Indian tricolour, US flag and placards rally in support of Dharun Ravi, in New Jersey on Monday
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Indian Americans rally in support of Dharun Ravi

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"All of these months later, there is a chorus of lesbian and gay voices that have begun to speak up because they are sceptical -- including Jim McGreevey and the editor of OUT magazine," said Dobbs.  

"In addition, this is now a wake-up call to a community that is intensely proud of this country -- the Indian-American community. Some of whom also pushed for hate crime legislation during the quote/unquote dot-buster attacks. Now, all of these people are starting to question how does the criminal justice system work? And this particular law, the hate crime law, is freighted with problems. I think it is completely unnecessary and potentially a dangerous weapon in the hands of prosecutors."


Image: Police officials speak with protestors rallying in support of Dharun Ravi, in New Jersey on Monday
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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