Time passes by. Almost two years ago, on June 25, 2010, Dr. Divyendu Sinha an alumni of IIT-K (1981), his wife, Alka, and their two teenage sons were walking in front of their home in Old Bridge, NJ, after dinner, when 4 teenagers surrounded them like a pack of wolves, pounced, pounded and kicked Dr. Sinha, leading to his death three days later. Life has not been the same for those who were left behind. The wheels of justice have been very slow and nearly two years later, two trials are coming up for hearing. The first is for the driver of the car (5th teenager) starting next week, and the other trial is for the remaining 4 teenagers, in July. But a fair trial, requires community participation.
In this week’s India Abroad cover page story of the upcoming Dr. Sinha murder trial, it recounted what Dr. Sinha’s wife, Alka, quoted on their website at that time, ‘No one should ever have to experience such horrific acts of violence. We are completely devastated and are trying to put our lives back together, but it’s very, very difficult. I stay awake at night trying to comprehend what happened to our lives and why. My children seem to have recovered physically from the blows they received, but emotionally they are forever scarred. The last image of my loving husband and my children’s father being beaten will forever be imprinted in our memory for lifetimes… we have full faith in justice system and are now looking forward to a speedy trial….’
“Speedy trial”, “faith in justice system”, that small hope that has kept Alka and their children going, trying to pick their lives up has been generally elusive, not just to Sinha family, but to all Indian Americans in general. From Geetha Angara’s family to the Sinha family, to the recent Dharun Ravi case, when it comes to getting the full benefit of the systems of this great country, it seems to be very elusive to Indian Americans. All these events happened within a few miles. Why? It is almost two years since Dr. Sinha’s brutal beating and the culprits are out on bail and have even committed more crimes. Geetha Angara was murdered four years ago right at her work place and to date, absolutely nothing has progressed. The young and bright kid, Dharun Ravi, did what passes every day at campuses as haze, but is being punished with up to 10 years of jail sentence in state prison, where hard core criminals are sent, and perhaps where the killers of Dr. Sinha would go (if justice is served in Dr. Sinha’s case).
Why has justice been so elusive to Indian Americans? As I mentioned in my earlier email on Dharun Ravi, we Indian Americans have misunderstood how a democracy such as the U.S., operates. Democracy is about numbers, it is about public participation. We see around how African Americans are rallying, from San Antonio to New York, for the recent killing of a black youth by a Mexican guard. We see how Jewish Americans built such effective institutions that a small case at a local school to the big issues at national level are immediately given attention to. But in the face of the most brutal acts perpetrated, we are sullied and going about our lives as though there is little participation needed from our side. What is lost, is that any one of us could have been Dr. Sinha, any one of us could have been Geetha Angara, and Dharun Ravi could be our son (Please see my email below on this topic discussing Dharun Ravi case).
When reporting about the Dharun Ravi trial, the media reported how there were consistently 25+ supporters of the Clementi family attending the deliberations, but in the case of Dharun Ravi, there were only 7 (few friends and employees of his father company). It is very much possible this had an effect on the outcome of the trial, because from the prosecutor to the judge, authorities are very sensitive to public opinion. What message does this give the judge, the prosecutor and the media? The U.S. is a very participatory democracy. It requires active participation in the process. It is the swift action by the community soon after Dr. Sinha’s murder that propelled the prosecutor to take quick action. But to sustain and to deliver justice for this horrible act, it requires us to participate. Lest we forget, we are not helping others or even Dr. Sinha’s family, but we are also helping yourselves, because it can happen to you or your loved ones, anywhere, any time.
So, what you can do? There are two trials for Dr. Sinha’s case, one beginning April 10th and the second one in July. First trial starting in few days is for the driver of the car of the five teenagers, Steven Contreras, whose statement to the police implicated the other four. The July trial is for the other four teenagers who pummeled Dr. Sinha to death. These trials run for about 10 days. It cannot be emphasized more on how important it is for each one of us take time to attend at least one of the two trials (see item 3 below). I urge you to consider taking a day off an attend at least one day during each trial.
With regards to first trail coming up, April 10th the jury selection starts and in about 2 or 3 days the trial begins (and runs for about 10 days). It is during the trial (NOT during jury selection) that presence of family, friends and most importantly, larger community is very essential. Their website http://DivyenduSinha.com will be posted with up to date details on exact date the trial starts.
Here are list of action each one of us can do quickly to help justice is served.
1) Call the Middlesex County Prosecutor, Bruce Kaplan’s office 732-745-3332 Press 1 + Ext 3333, Prosecutor@co.middlesex.nj.us, firstname.lastname@example.org.
2) Call your state assembly persons and senators. Express your distress about the slowness of the trial, that justice has become elusive to Indian Americans and you expect they will ensure Indian Americans get the same justice as others as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Discuss specific details and if possible, even meet them.
3) Please attend at least 2 or 3 days of each trial. It cannot be overemphasized how important this is. Numbers matter and the prosecutor and judges are very sensitive to these. The dates and location of the trials are posted on the website www.divyendusinha.com
4) Express your thoughts in other forums such as local media, and radio stations. I recall I once gave an interview to a radio station on an issue, and I was totally surprised when my next door neighbor told me that he had heard my interview during his car pool ride.
If you want justice, you have to make it happen. In a democracy, things are not given out on a platter, you have to claim it, work for it and get it.
PS: Please read the email on Dharun Ravi case given below to see why community participation is critical. Please forward this email to others.