SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — The South Asian Bar Association of Northern California (SABA) made significant strides in bolstering legal support for South Asian Americans during its annual banquet held in San Francisco, California, on March 30. At the event, SABA raised an impressive $50,000 to establish a groundbreaking legal defense fund.

Named the South Asian American Justice Collaborative (SAAJCO), this national legal nonprofit aims to provide crucial assistance to South Asian Americans facing various legal challenges. Spearheaded by attorney Kalpana Peddibhotla from Fremont, California, the initiative addresses the pressing need for adequate legal representation among South Asian American communities, particularly in navigating immigration issues and combating hate crimes. Peddibhotla emphasized that many South Asian Americans encounter difficulties due to language barriers, hindering their access to justice.

The motivation behind SAAJCO stems from the urgent need to address systemic issues faced by the community. Peddibhotla highlighted the tragic case of Jaahnavi Kandula, a 23-year-old student killed in a tragic accident involving a speeding police car. Kandula’s death initially went unnoticed until community advocates demanded a thorough investigation, underscoring the necessity for legal advocacy and support.

In collaboration with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, SABA previously hired Erum Kidwai as a legal fellow. Kidwai’s contributions have been invaluable, including establishing a rapid response system to combat hate crimes, providing essential legal resources through “Know Your Rights” materials, and assisting Nepali individuals in applying for Temporary Protection Status in the United States. SABA’s collective efforts across its 29 chapters raised an impressive $170,000 last year, covering Kidwai’s expenses for two years. Peddibhotla aims to raise $340,000 this year to successfully launch SAAJCO.

During the banquet, Peddibhotla delivered a powerful message, emphasizing the importance of defending the rights of South Asian Americans. She stressed that the legal community plays a vital role in advocating for justice and empowerment. Drawing from the community’s resilience in the face of historical challenges, Peddibhotla expressed hope for a future where South Asian Americans receive the legal support they deserve.

The initiative has garnered support beyond legal circles, with the non-profit organization Indiaspora pledging $25,000 in seed funding and committing to collaborate with SABA on the legal defense fund. Indiaspora’s founder, MR. Rangaswami, likened SAAJCO to the Anti-Defamation League, highlighting its potential to address the rising tide of hate crimes affecting ethnic minorities.

Recent data underscores the urgency of SAAJCO’s mission, with over 11,000 hate crimes targeting the Asian American community since 2020. Additionally, FBI reports reveal a concerning increase in hate crimes against Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus. Despite these challenges, community advocates remain steadfast in their commitment to combating injustice and promoting solidarity.

The SABA Northern California gala concluded on a celebratory note, featuring a performance by Raaginder, a Sikh American violinist, who brought attendees to the dance floor with lively Bollywood classics.