The state of New Jersey, which has had a long and troubling legacy of hate crimes against Indian Americans, had surprisingly few such incidents in 2016, according to a new report released March 27.
The report was released by New Jersey’s new state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who is Indian American. The 30-page report included data about the nationality, religion and gender of the victims, whether the hate crime was against a person, private property or public property, and several related details.
In 2016, only three hate crimes were perpetuated against Indian Americans, which the report identifies as Asian Indians. All three of those attacks were against Hindu Americans, according to the report, which also stated that two attacks were committed on the person, while one was committed on the victim’s private property.
More troubling is the large number of attacks on Muslim Americans: there were 26 hate crimes against members of the Islamic faith in 2016. Four of the hate crimes against Muslims were on public property, seven were on private property, and 15 were on the person.
Children between the ages of 11 and 17 were most often the targets of hate crimes; the largest number of offenders were also between the ages of 11 and 17, indicating that many such incidents may have been school bullying. But surprisingly, adult white males between the ages of 46 to 60, and a large number of senior citizens committed the majority of attacks.
African Americans and Jewish people were the most frequent targets of hate crime. Monmouth and Middlesex counties had by far the largest numbers of hate crimes.
No comparative data was available for 2017.
New Jersey gained notoriety in 1987, when a gang calling itself the Dotbusters – in reference to the tikka worn by many Indian American women on their foreheads – began harassing members of the community in Jersey City and Hoboken. In July of that year, members of the Dotbusters gang attacked banker Navroze Mody as he was leaving the Gold Coast bar in Hoboken with friends. The youth punched Mody with their fists, feet, and bricks, and left him unconscious on the sidewalk. Mody died four days later. The youths – who were tried as adults – each received sentences of 10 years or less.
Several days later, physician Kaushal Saran was severely beaten in Jersey City Heights. Saran survived a month-long coma, but emerged with severe damage to his brain and skull.
In more recent times, Indian American professor Divyendu Sinha was fatally beaten outside his Old Bridge, New Jersey, home in 2010, while taking a late-night walk with his family. Three of the five teens allegedly involved in the incident were acquitted of all charges, three years later.
In 2016, New Jersey law enforcement agencies reported 417 bias incident offenses, a 14 percent increase compared to 2015.
“It’s sad that we see bias incidents trending upward, but it’s not surprising, given that we have political leaders in this country who encourage the expression of intolerance and hatred, or in other cases, ignore or countenance it,” said Grewal, in a statement announcing the release of the report.
“What we need to do, as individuals and as a society, is to push back against this prejudice. We need to embrace the diversity that makes us stronger as a state and a nation, and we need to spread a countervailing message of tolerance and unity.”
“To quote Nelson Mandela, ‘No one is born hating another person.’ If people can learn to hate, they also can learn to love and respect one another,” said Grewal.