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IAFPE Holds Its Annual General Body Luncheon

Nirmala Garimella

It was a summing up of all important political issues at the Indian American Forum for Political Education Annual General Body luncheon at the Hartwell house recently. Speakers for the afternoon included Carol Rose, Executive Director, ACLU, Preeta Bansal, member of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Richard Cole, Attorney General Office, Boston and Jeevan Ramapriya, Director of District Services, Office of State Senator Baddour.

Carol Rose, spoke at length on the threat posed by the USA Patriots Act and sounded a warning bell on the freedom of the individual in this country. “It is taking away many of our individual liberties” she noted. “We should be alarmed that our tax dollars are being used to alarm people”. However the public is taking notice, she said and it was evident when 1,200 people turned up at eight in the morning to protest U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's visit to Boston. Rose who spent three and a half years in South Asia spoke on her personal experience with some of the people affected by this act and outlined the impact it can have for many immigrant and minority communities.

Preeta Bansal who was selected from among a host of candidates by Senator Thomas Daschle, a Democrat and Senate minority leader, is a dynamic speaker and she displayed this ability by her impressive speech on her role as a member of this commission. She is the first Indian American to occupy such an eminent position on USCIRF, which advises the President, the Secretary of State and Congress on religious freedom in other countries and how best to promote it. She advised Indian Americans that issues of religious persecution must be presented based on factual evidence and research in order to be noticed or brought to attention. Bansal also retraced the history of immigration in the country and talked at length on how the African American community fought for the civil rights and in a way paved the way for other immigrants in the US. She felt that alliances with various other communities would definitely help the immigrant cause.

Richard Cole touched briefly on the three incidents of racial discrimination involving people of South Asian origin at Lowell, New Bedford and Somerset and apprised the audience of the steps taken from his office on these issues. Two important measures were the training of law enforcement officers to understand diversity and culture and the other was a program to educate teenagers in High School on understanding religious and cultural differences. Jeevan Ramapriya who gave up a lucrative career in consulting to enter into active politics said he was motivated to do this because political service attracted him. As a product of the Indian community he felt that Indians must play a more active role in political affairs of this country.

Vanita Shastri, President welcomed all present and introduced the speakers for the day. The forum elected two new members to its board of trustees: Amar Kapur and Radha Jalan.

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