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Fundraiser for South Asian Bar Association's New Legal Defence Fund Raises $50,000


However, At its annual banquet in San Francisco, California, on 30 March, the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California raised $50,000 to establish a new legal defence fund.

Taking the name SAAJCO, the nationwide legal nonprofit will serve South Asian Americans. According to attorney Kalpana Peddibhotla of Fremont, California, who is one of the main organisers of the new initiative, South Asian Americans are becoming more numerous, but they are frequently underfunded when it comes to fighting immigration issues, hate crimes, and gaining an understanding of their fundamental rights (New India Abroad). She made the point that many people's inability to speak English well becomes an obstacle to receiving justice.

Peddibhotla brought up the situation where a 23-year-old student named Jaahnavi Kandula was killed last year when she was trying to cross the street in a fast-moving police car. Prior to the demands of community advocates for an investigation, her death went unrecognised.

Last year, SABA and the Asian American Legal Defence and Education Fund collaborated to hire Erum Kidwai as a legal fellow. Kidwai has since organised a rapid response system to combat the recent surge of hate crimes, written "Know Your Rights" materials, and assisted Nepalis in applying for Temporary Protection Status to remain in the US. Last year, a total of $170,000 was contributed by the 29 chapters of SABA, which would cover Kidwai's expenses for two years. In an interview with NIA, Peddibhotla said that in order to launch SAAJCO, she has to raise $340,000 this year.

She made the following statement while speaking at the gala: "Our rights must be defended." She went on to say that this was a lesson that South Asian Americans had learned throughout the past 130 years of living in the US and dealing with racism and anti-immigration sentiment, as well as in the decades that followed 9/11.

"The instrument that we, the legal community, can provide is to advocate for our community's rights in the courts," Peddibhotla stated. "Hope, not fear, is the mother of SAAJCO. She emphasised the importance of uniting as a community in order to empower its members and assure them that they will stand up for their rights and seek justice.

Even in non-legal circles, the new initiative is making waves. Indiaspora, a non-profit organisation, has given US$25,000 in seed money and committed to work with SABA on the legal defence fund.

Indiaspora's founder, MR. Rangaswami, was present at the gala in San Francisco on March 30 and expressed his delight in endorsing the new endeavour to NIA. Using an analogy to the Anti-Defamation League, founded by Jewish Americans, he said, "Over the years, there has been a lack of community focus and resources to address the growing danger of hate crimes that affect ethnic minorities." He went on to compare the new enterprise to that organisation.

According to data collected by the web platform Stop AAPI Hate, over 11,000 hate crimes and incidents have targeted the Asian American community since 2020. With the US embroiled in the Israeli-Hamas conflict, Islamophobia is on the increase.

Based on information gathered from local law enforcement agencies, the yearly Uniform Crime Reports for 2022 were compiled by the FBI. The report detailed 181 hate crimes perpetrated against Sikhs, 158 crimes against Islam, and 25 crimes against Hindus. Compared to 2020, when 129 anti-Muslim and 10 anti-Hindu hate crimes were recorded, the data shows a disturbing increase of 92 anti-Sikh hate crimes. Community groups claim that the FBI's hate crime data is significantly under-reported because agencies are not required to report this information but are instead asked to do so voluntarily. At the conclusion of the SABA Northern California gala, the Sikh American violinist Raaginder got everyone up and dancing to Bollywood hits.