Shocking Video: Indian American student choked by bully in Texas middle school
COPPELL, Texas (Diya TV) — In a student-captured viral video shared online on May 11, Indian American student Shaan Pritmani was physically attacked in an act of bullying at Coppell Middle School North in Coppell, Texas.
Pritmani is seen to be sitting on a bench when another student, a white teenager, forcefully asked him to move. When Pritmani did not comply, after indicating he was there first, the other student put Pritmani in a chokehold and dragged him out of the seat.
The Coppell Independent School District (ISD) is known to be diverse and bullying incidents like the one detailed above are not commonplace. However, there was a faculty member arrested on accounts of sexual assault and indecency with a child in early 2021.
Once the video spread, Brad Hunt, Superintendent of Coppell Independent School District, shared a statement condemning the situation, saying “bullying, both verbal and physical, as well as physical acts of aggression are never acceptable and do not align with who we are at CISD and our core values.” The statement also notes that the district is undergoing an investigation into the issue to provide closure.
Pritmani was suspended for 3 days, while the assaultor got 1 day of suspense.
The issue has gained traction on social media, with many people of Indian and South Asian descent stunned by the graphic video:
Pritmani’s mother, Sonika Kukreja, has started a petition to spread more awareness, not only towards this specific altercation, but bullying as a whole across the nation. The petition states: “Shaan’s parents reached out to school authorities, shared the evidence and requested a reassessment. The school informed the parents that they have seen the video and that there will be no change in the course of action.”
The petition has over 200K signings at the time of this publication and that number continues to grow.
LA Kings host first Indian cultural night
LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — The Los Angeles Kings hosted their first Indian Cultural Night at the Crypto.com Arena, a new initiative intended to broaden their appeal to a growing demographic. Many of the guests in attendance and the special invitees on hand talked about what the representation of the evening means to them.
Robin Bawa, the first South Asian NHL Player, said “this is great. This is a good idea that the Kings are doing. The first Indian Cultural Night here in the US, and they did a good job – coming down here to be part of this was also a great honor. You know it is all about spreading the word and getting the Indian community involved in these types of things and bringing them out to games.”
“We are here to grow the game, and this allows other people to understand the game and really get embraced by it,” said Dampy Brar, APNA Hockey Co-Founder. “So there’s a lot of South Asian families and population here. When they have nights like this, more will come, more will get introduced to hockey, educate themselves. So to be part of this night and to be able to do what I did today was special.”
Amrit Gill, host of Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi Edition, concurred. “If you can see it, you can be it, as cliche as it sounds. It is one of the most powerful tools in helping create more inclusion not only in sports, but in society as well. So I am over the moon to be here, but this is just the beginning.”
Indian American TikTok stars Kiran and Nivi sang the National Anthem. Kiran explained that this is their “first time attending a game and performing the national anthem.” Nivi added she was “just so grateful to be part of this.”
Indian American actress Sway Bhatia says representation matters in sports and media. Bhatia portrays a hockey player on Disney’s brand new Mighty Ducks TV show.
“Seeing so many people with faces of color, and to be one of those people, is just so empowering,” said Bhatia. And you know, other people in the stadium are able to see who we are and see what we do. I mean we had two amazing brown people of color sing the national anthem, which was so beautiful.”
Organizers are calling the evening a success after a larger than expected turnout and hope this continues to expand the popularity of the game.
Randip Janda, Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi Edition Host, points out that “this is a moment where not only hockey fans are able to celebrate what’s going on tonight but this is a community coming together and celebrating those common bonds whether you’re Indian, whether South Asian or not. A celebration like this, it shows you something. That the rink, where you go and you might be having a bad day but you’re going to celebrate. Win, lose or draw, it should be a party every single time. I think this helps us understand people around us and our communities and hockey can be a vessel of that.”
Exclusive: Santa Clara County Human Rights Commission to hold hearing on caste
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (Diya TV) — The Santa Clara County Human Rights Commission will hold a public hearing on whether caste should be listed as a separate factor in their discrimination policy on Thursday, April 29, 2021. At least 200,000 South Asian residents live in the county that features some of the most prominent technology companies in the world. Following the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing lawsuit against San Jose based Cisco Systems, the Cal State University Student Association’s resolution on caste discrimination, and similar efforts at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and the Claremont Colleges, the county represents the latest California institution motivated by a 2018 report authored by activist group Equality Labs.
Santa Clara Human Rights Commission Chair and San Jose Westminster Presbyterian Church Pastor Reverend Dr. Bryan Franzen confirmed the commission has been in talks with multiple organizations about caste, including Equality Labs. Following a November 2020 meeting with Equality Labs founder Thenmozhi Soundararajan, the commission unanimously approved establishing an ad hoc committee consisting of commissioners Robert Chaykin, Dylah Ray, Hyon Chu Yi-Baker, and Saigal Shanahwaz.
While the official meeting agenda only mentions caste discrimination, a source familiar with committee deliberations disclosed part of the ad hoc committee’s efforts center on a proposed effort to collect caste demographic data called “Know Your Caste.” Such data collection would be consistent with formally defining caste as a protected category, as advocated by various Dalit, Ambedkarite, and other South Asian-focused progressive activist groups.
Equality Labs has generated extensive coverage in the United States, India, and even China. In addition, the group partnered with Indian American members of Congress Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) to commemorate Bhimrao Ambedkar, the late Dalit intellectual and chief architect of the Indian constitution, and discuss caste discrimination in Congress. Despite support and financial backing from progressive organizations, perceptions within the South Asian and Hindu communities vary widely.
“Equality Labs has prominently and even proudly displayed a track record of anti-Hindu bigotry. It repeatedly says that Hinduism is not a safe space for Dalits, when the fact is, Equality Labs is not a safe space for Hindus, let alone Hindu Dalits and Bahujans,” stated the Ambedkar-Phule Network of American Dalits and Bahujans in a letter sent to the Santa Clara HRC.
Apart from the group’s ideology, the report methodology itself has raised eyebrows, including the elimination of about 20% of responses for being “extreme or illogical,” lack of statistical testing, and reliance on self-disclosed (and not verified) caste affiliation – all disclosed by Equality Labs in the report appendix.
The reliance of American government entities on activist group findings does differ greatly from the British government’s approach. When considering similar legislation on caste, the government commissioned their own report that concluded, “uncovering the extent of caste discrimination in the UK would require a representative survey…something particularly challenging given the lack of pre-existing British population data segmented by caste.”
Some Hindus also question the fairness of public proceedings based on prior experience. “I was shocked by the clear anti-Hindu and xenophobic agenda,” said an American Hindu that attended the Cal Poly Student Association’s public hearing on caste discrimination. Members of the public had just thirty seconds each to speak to respond to the unanimously passed resolution stated to be “in compliance with the recommendations of Equality Labs.” “As a California taxpayer, I am appalled by the complete lack of ethics that the CSU committee showed in not consulting objective parties from both camps or consulting the public before making their decision.
At the same time, the Hindu American Foundation and other South Asian groups also publicly condemned casteism, whether in diaspora or origin countries. “Nobody should face workplace discrimination based on South Asian caste,” said Guha Krishnamurthi, Assistant Professor at the South Texas College of Law. “Drafting the legislation appropriately can be difficult…the [SC] Human Rights Commission and other deliberative bodies are there to help do that. To that end, we should support such deliberative bodies.”
The prospect of such policies in the United States has stoked concerns “the addition of ‘caste’ as a specific protected category, however, would single out and wrongly target only one community.” In a letter to the Santa Clara Human Rights Commission, the Hindu American Foundation said “[Hindu] employees fear accusations in the midst of general ignorance about Hinduism, widespread stereotypes and misinformation about caste in India, and the lack of cultural context of HR professionals, are endangering their jobs and impacting their mental well-being.”
The Santa Clara County Human Rights Commission hearing will be held virtually at 5:30 PM PST on 4/29 and is open to members of the public. You can watch it live here:
EDITOR’S NOTE: No decision was made during this marathon session and there will likely be additional public forums to discuss this topic in the near future.
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