Indian Americans Hold Vigils for Victims of School Murders

By Sunita Sohrabji and Monica Luhar, India-West, December 19, 2012

Still reeling from the aftershocks of a gunman’s rampage at a Wisconsin gurdwara last August, the Indian American community across the nation held vigils for the 26 people – mostly young children – who were killed Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., by gunman Adam Lanza.

Immediately following the news, the Indian Association of Western Connecticut organized a vigil and prayer ceremony in Newtown Dec. 16. 

IAWC board member Jagat Patel, one of the organizers of the event, told India-West: “We’ve never witnessed anything in this area. It’s a very small, village kind of town. The population is not more than 15,000 people and everyone knows everybody.”

Patel learned about the horrific shootings from his daughter — who attends high school nearby – who contacted him as her school went into lockdown mode. “My daughter told me, ‘I don’t want to go to school, it’s not safe anymore,” said Patel, a dentist, who has lived with his family in nearby Monroe for 21 years.

In Brookfield, Wisc., Sikh Americans quickly organized a candlelight vigil at the Oak Creek gurdwara. Gunman Wade Michael Page, a white supremacist, attacked the temple during Sunday morning prayer services Aug. 5, killing six people before committing suicide.

Jyoti Grewal, who attended the vigil, told local media: “The whole world showed us so much love and support (after Wade’s attacks). We wanted to show them that we care too.”

A poster created at the vigil and signed by attendees will be sent to survivors at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

An outdoor interfaith vigil was held in Bakersfield, Calif., Dec. 17 to mourn the lives of the children killed by Lanza.

“As many funerals as I have done in our city, burying child after child, youth after youth, it’s the same all over the world. Our hearts are broken,” said Manuel Carrizalez, executive director ofStay Focused Ministries.

Indian American activists also organized a candlelight vigil Dec. 19 at Live Oak Park in nearby Santa Clara, Calif., to help children understand the unfathomable tragedy. “The events at Sandy Oak have been hard for the communities all over to bear. This is an opportunity to share, grieve, support, and hopefully help to deal with. We can imagine how challenging it must be to children all over to comprehend the situation, not to mention the fear that must be felt,” said organizers in a press statement.

Children attending the event were encouraged to create a card to send to a student at Sandy Hook, and also to bring a teddy bear to share.

Community activist Ajay Jain Bhutoria is organizing a community discussion to be held Dec. 29, at a yet-undetermined venue. The discussion will focus on California Senator Diane Feinstein’s pledge to reintroduce a bill at the start of the next congressional session banning assault weapons.

Bhutoria told India-West that Feinstein’s bill must go further to unilaterally ban all weapons. He also wants Feinstein to include an annual re-registration of legally-purchased weapons, and an online database – similar to the federal sex offenders database – which would allow residents of a community to see which of their neighbors have guns in their homes.

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