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Asia Pacific

Alabama Apologizes to India for Police Assault on Indian Visitor

FEB. 18, 2015

    Photo Sureshbhai Patel, an Indian man who was badly injured by the police in Alabama on Feb. 6, in a hospital in Huntsville, Ala., the next day. Credit Chirag Patel, via Associated Press Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story

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    The governor of Alabama offered a written apology to the people of India on Tuesday for the severe injuries suffered by an Indian visitor hurled to the ground by a police officer this month.

    Gov. Robert Bentley wrote that he deeply regretted “the unfortunate use of excessive force” against Sureshbhai Patel, a grandfather recently arrived from India, by an officer responding to a 911 call about a “skinny black guy” walking through a Huntsville suburb on Feb. 6.

    Police video of the police actions, and an image of Mr. Patel immobilized in a hospital bed — suffering from temporarily paralysis, with fused vertebrae — had fueled outrage on social networks and Indian television for the past week.

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    Police video of officers in the Huntsville, Ala., suburb of Madison injuring a visitor from India on Feb. 6. AL.com, via YouTube Continue reading the main story

    "No-go zones," Alabama style: "Nothing suspicious about Patel other than he has brown skin" http://t.co/BOaxfnpNIB pic.twitter.com/vsRZZljFCV

    — Anil Kalhan (@kalhan) Feb. 11, 2015
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    India takes up with the US reports of excessive use of force by police on an Indian in Alabama: PTI #ht

    — Hindustan Times (@htTweets) Feb. 11, 2015

    The governor, who promised “to see that justice is done,” added that he had ordered a state agency to begin “a parallel investigation to the one being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation” into the episode.

    The officer, Eric Parker, has already been dismissed and charged with criminal assault for tackling Mr. Patel, 57, who speaks no English but appeared to be cooperative in video of the encounter recorded by cameras mounted on the dashboards of two police cars.

    Audio picked up by one of the police cameras showed that the incomprehension was mutual. Officers continued to ask questions and issue commands to Mr. Patel for at least nine minutes after he said he did not understand English.

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    Police video of officers in Alabama tackling an Indian man who does not speak English. AL.com, via YouTube

    At one stage in the recording, an officer can be heard saying, “I don’t know if he’s A.M.S. or what he is,” using an abbreviation for “altered mental status” to suggest that the man might not have been following orders because he was delirious or psychotic.

    Mr. Patel’s son, Chirag, an engineer for a government contractor, told the local news site AL.com that his father had arrived in the Huntsville suburb of Madison just a week before the episode on Feb. 6 and was simply out for a morning walk.

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    Chirag Patel, whose father was injured by police officers in Alabama, said his father was minding his own business at the time of the episode. AL.com, via YouTube

    On Indian news channels, discussion of the case quickly fused with anger at President Obama’s recent comments at a White House prayer breakfast on Feb. 5, in which he mentioned India while making the point that many of the world’s major religions had been used to justify sectarian violence.

    In those remarks, Mr. Obama first noted that “during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.” He then said: “Michelle and I returned from India — an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity — but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs — acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji.”

    Although Mr. Obama also spoke about the history of racial intolerance in the United States in the same speech, Arnab Goswami, the host of a debate show on India’s Times Now channel, attacked the American president for his perceived criticism of India and called on Indians to discuss the episode in Alabama on social networks using the tag #StopPreachingAmerica.

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    An Indian television debate, “Is This Tolerance, Mr. Obama?” TheNewshourDebate, via YouTube Continue reading the main story
    An Indian television report on an apology from the police chief of Madison, Ala., whose officers injured a visitor from India. Times Now, via YouTube

    Sympathy for Mr. Patel moved Indian-Americans to set up a crowdfunding page to raise money for his medical bills, which has already drawn nearly $200,000 in support.

    The episode also prompted some members of the Indian diaspora to wonder if their community pays too little attention to the issue of racism in the United States.

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    Wake-up call for Indians who think US race issues don't affect them. #BlackLivesMatter http://t.co/MjumVE43dw pic.twitter.com/pLJusxB0gu

    — sree sreenivasan (@sree) Feb. 10, 2015
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    Many S.Asians I know in US think issues around racism don't affect them. They should care even w/out proof like this pic.twitter.com/Ns5Hyo1uDW

    — sree sreenivasan (@sree) Feb. 10, 2015

    My story on the Alabama attack on @qzindia: Why America rallied behind an Indian grandfather but abandoned Ferguson http://t.co/AkBGx0t28q

    — Diksha Madhok (@dikshamadhok) Feb. 17, 2015


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