On the evening of 24th August, Esmeralda Armendarez Upton, 58, a realtor for California Federal Bank physically assaulted at least two Bharatiya-American women in a rage-filled hate crime.
On the evening of the 24th August, four Bharatiya-American women encountered Esmeralda at the parking lot behind a restaurant. Seemingly unprovoked, Esmeralda approaches the women, immediately on the offensive, passing bitter statements like “you guys are everywhere… If life was great in India why come here” expressly saying that because of their accents, the women couldn’t possibly be American, and should go back to Bharat because she sees “their people” working everywhere in the neighbourhood. In the video clip, she reveals her Mexican descent and appears to have very strong sentiments towards the women because they don’t sound ‘American enough’ for her liking.
The event took place in the suburb of Plano, Dallas, Texas, an area with a 22% subcontinental population, with Rani Banerjee, one of the victims, sharing on social media just how traumatic the incident was for her. She said “I have lived in Dallas Fort Worth area for 29 years and never have I felt so humiliated, threatened, and scared for my life. Can’t believe this is what America has become,”.
This incident is reminiscent of the Atlanta shootings amidst the pandemic in 2021, wherein Asian-American women were attacked and eight lost their lives because of sentiments similar to those showcased by Esmeralda.
The women recorded the incident and reported it to police, which is when Esmeralda assaulted them, demanding they stop recording. Despite the video evidence and the accused being present on the spot, the Police of Plano city took nearly 20 hours to finish their preliminary investigation and arrested her on the afternoon of the 25th after the internet had already caught wind of the situation.
Esmerelda has been charged with assault, bodily injury, and terroristic threats, and is being held on a bond amount of 10,000 US dollars.
While the incident is currently under investigation by the Plano Police Department’s Crime Against Persons Unit as a hate crime, the lax attitude and dismissal of the situation by the police before the clips went viral on social media is worrisome.
Many condemned the attack, with organizations such as the Hindu American Foundation standing in solidarity with the victims, denouncing the attack and sharing the reports on social media.
In a now-deleted tweet, Amit Banerjee, son of Rani Banerjee, one of the victims of the incident, took to Twitter and said, “This is my mom’s video. It’s not anti-Hindu. It’s anti-brown/Anti-Indian, which is NOT the same. We will not be used for your nationalist propaganda.”
However, Amit Banerjee did not reflect the same sentiments when on August 26, the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued a statement against the Dallas attack to say, “Such bigotry cannot be tolerated”.
The emergence of Bharatiyas as prominent leaders in all walks of life and their industrious and hardworking nature coming to the fore wherever they work, is perhaps changing the outlook of society towards them and leading to people perceiving them as a threat when they are not able to compete or match up to the standards being set by the Bharatiya community.
The assault was clearly about the women being “Bharatiya/Indian” but CAIR has been actively trying to make it about the “South Asian Community.” In its efforts to avoid using the terms “Bharatiya/Indian” or “Indian sub-continent” when referring to the region, the CAIR has been at the forefront of pushing for the change of terminology from “Indian sub-continent” to “South Asia”, when such targeted attacks are made. Not only does this further their self-victimization and victim complex but dismisses the reality of anti-Bharatiya sentiments in the West, by chalking it up to be just hatred for “South Asians” or brown/people of color in general.
CAIR is an Islamic organisation infamous for spreading its anti-Bharat and anti-Hindu rhetoric, and somehow their statements translate into support for the victims, while the statements by the Hindu American Foundation are furtherance of propaganda?
How is it that the statements of an Islamist group with links to terrorist organizations like Hamas are not politically motivated? How is an organisation vehemently pushing Hinduphobia and anti-Bharat propaganda around the world not furthering their propaganda by dismissing the Hindu-Bharatiya identity of the victims and making the incident about ‘South Asians’ as a whole? How is an organisation that called for the release of 49-year-old Pakistani terrorist Aafia Siddiqui, who is currently serving 86 years in prison for attacking US Army and FBI personnel in Afghanistan, a good group of people to be backed by, while the very son of the victim refuses any sympathies by the Hindu American Foundation, simply because they advocate for Hindus, a global minority and one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world?
This response by the son of the victim paints the picture of ignorance among Hindus living in the West regarding growing Hinduphobia there. The fact that Amit Banerjee would dismiss the support of an organization because the organization is Hindu, while the attacker wasn’t explicitly Hinduphobic, stood on weak grounds when he with open arms accepts the support of an Islamic organization. His analysis of the incident being anti-brown is also weak, with Esmerelda outright saying it’s because of their identity as Indians, that she does not like them.
The growing Left narrative of Hindus as ‘extremist Hindutva types’, and Hindus having some ‘nefarious nationalist agenda’ has now become so mainstream in the media, that people would rather have an organization with links to terrorist organizations back them, rather than a group which has links to Hindu Dharma.