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Raja Rajeswari: The first Indian-American woman Judge in New York

Chennai-born Raja Rajeswari, who had migrated to the U.S as a teenager, has become the first person of Indian origin to be named as a criminal court judge in New York City

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Raja Rajeswari waving hands in the swearing-in ceremony, Reuters

Chennai-born Raja Rajeswari, who had migrated to the U.S as a teenager, has become the first person of Indian origin to be named as a criminal court judge in New York City. She was nominated by New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, and was sworn in on April 14, 2016. The judges in the New York City Criminal Court and the Family Court within the city are appointed for a term of 10 years by the Mayor. Presently, there are two male judges of Indian origin in civil court settings – Jaya Madhavan on the New York City Housing Court in Bronx County, and Anil C. Singh of New York County Supreme Court, 1st District, according to ethnic New India Times.

On May 2, she took the oath of office at a ceremony in New York City along with 27 other judges appointed earlier this month to the Family Court, Criminal Court, and Civil Court, which are part of the New York State Unified Court System. She joined her new office on Tuesday.

43-year-old Rajeswari had previously worked with the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office for past 16 years in several bureaus including Criminal Court, Narcotics, Supreme Court, and the Sex Crimes Special Victims Bureau, where she last served as Deputy Chief for more than four years.

She has mostly worked on cases involving women and children asserting that they are the ones that touched her the most. Apart from her legal intelligence, she is a well-known Bharathanatyam and Kucchipudi dancer and continues to perform at Indian events and temples with her troupe from the Padmalaya Dance Academy, named after her mother, Padma Ramanathan.

Raja Rajeswari in her swearing-in ceremony in New York, Deccan Chronicle
Raja Rajeswari in her swearing-in ceremony in New York, Deccan Chronicle

Rajeswari said that she hopes to use her new position to improve the judicial system by encouraging interpreters to have more access to aid immigrants. “I’m honoured to sit on a city bench and make Staten Island proud,” she said.

Mayor praised her for utilizing her ability to speak in different languages to work. Besides Indian languages, she can also speak Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian languages.

“To ensure New Yorkers have access to a fair, equitable justice system, we need judges who are qualified, honest and reflective of the people of this city,” Mr. de Blasio said.

Related Article: Indian-American native son being a Supreme Court nominee

“With their wealth of legal experience, these appointees represent all five boroughs and all walks of life. From the first female South Asian-American judge in New York City to a former NYPD First Deputy Commissioner, these talented leaders truly reflect the diverse range of communities that make up our great city,” he said.

“For someone like me, an immigrant who comes from India, I’m beyond grateful,” she had said. “I told the mayor this is not only my American Dream, but it shows another girl from a faraway country that this is possible.”

Written by Pashchiema with inputs from The Hindu

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IS Sudden Claim for New York City Truck Attack Raises Questions on the Collapse of the Group

With IS claiming the New York City truck attack, questions arise on the collapse of the group's self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria

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New York City Attack
The Home Depot Truck being removed after the NYC Attack.VOA.

New York, November 4: Key differences between Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the New York City truck attack and claims for previous terror attacks have caught the eye of counterterror officials, who are trying to determine what it might mean for the state of terror group.

Most notably, they said, the way in which IS issued the claim failed to follow the group’s usual patterns, raising questions about whether the collapse of the group’s self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria was starting to take a toll.

“One of the soldiers of the Islamic State attacked a number of crusaders on a street in New York City,” the group’s weekly al-Naba newsletter said late Thursday, claiming attacker Sayfullo Saipov, 29, as one of its own.

“This is one of the most prominent attacks to target crusaders in America,” al-Naba continued, adding, “[By] the grace of Allah, the operation instilled fear in crusader America.”

But officials and analysts said that it’s rare for IS to make such a claim first in al-Naba.

“It’s not unprecedented, but it is something we’re not used to,” said Raphael Gluck, an independent researcher.

While considered an official IS channel, al-Naba has traditionally been used to follow up on the group’s initial claims, which often come from its Amaq or Nashir news agencies, in multiple languages, via social media.

Relying on those news agencies this time, however, may not have been possible.

“The Amaq news agency has sputtered in recent weeks, and struggled without a website,” Gluck said.

New York City Truck Attack
Police stand near the New York City Truck Attack. VOA.

Statement wording

There are also questions about how the statement in al-Naba was worded, which also differs from wordings in many previous claims.

“The al-Naba story on the New York attack relies exclusively on outside media reporting of the attacks,” according to an analysis done by Ryan Pereira for the Counter Extremism Project.

“Traditionally, Amaq and al-Naba claims for responsibility include language suggesting that a source close to Amaq or a source close to the Islamic State relayed attack details to the group’s media officials,” Pereira wrote.

Nor did the account in al-Naba offer any evidence to substantiate the group’s claim.

Additionally, it has been rare, though not unprecedented, for IS to claim an attacker as a “soldier of the caliphate” if he is still alive.

Another part of the al-Naba statement that caught the attention of counterterror officials was the way it referred to the deadly October 1 shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 people and wounded hundreds more.

Al-Naba described the Las Vegas shooting as “the attack carried out by the mujahid brother Abu Abdul Barr al-Amriki — may Allah accept him — against a large gathering of crusaders.”

It was not the first time IS had claimed the Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock, 64, as one of its own, referring to him with an Arabic nom de guerre. But so far, investigators have yet to come forward with any evidence that connects him to IS.

Instead, U.S. counterterror officials have cautioned for months that IS is increasingly opportunistic, even desperate, with one official noting the group has been “stepping up its claims of inspired attacks even in cases that do not appear to be connected to the group.”

And, although they admit IS has been been able to adapt to losses and hardships, some see the claim late Thursday for this week’s attack as possibly falling along those lines. (VOA)

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Recent Trends among the Indian Diaspora and its Increasing Significance

As the Indian diaspora is increasingly organizing itself in the host countries by accumulating the resources, it may have potential impact on the economic, social and political landscape in India.

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Indian Diaspora
Indian Diaspora organizing community identity in the host country

The Indian diaspora is a generic term representing the people who migrated from the Indian territories to the other parts of the world. It includes the descendants of these groups. Today, over twenty million Indians which include Non-Resident Indians and People of Indian Origin are residing outside the Indian territory as Indian diaspora. According to a UN survey report of 2015, India’s diaspora population is the largest in the world. In 2005, Indians formed the world’s third-largest diaspora. The Indians who settled overseas in the 1960s for more developed countries such as US, UK, Canada, Australia and Western Europe formulate the category of the New Diaspora.

What are the popular host countries for the Indian Diaspora:

The 2010 estimates of Census data of US, UK and Canada suggest that Indian diaspora constitutes three million people in US, 1.5 million people in the United Kingdom and one million in Canada. Indians are the fourth largest immigrant group in the United States. Also, five million emigrants from India residing in the Gulf region at present.

The History of Indian Diaspora:

A brief overview of the history of Indian diaspora suggests that the first group of Indians immigrated to Eastern Europe in the 1st century AD from Rajasthan during the reign of Kanishka. Yet another evidence of migration was witnessed in 500 AD when a group immigrated to Southeast Asia as the Cholas extended their empire to Indonesia and Malaysia thereby spreading the Indian culture in these states. Thus the early evidence of the diaspora was found during ancient times. The medieval period witnessed the spread of Hinduism and Buddhism during the Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms. Mughals took Indians as traders, scholars, artists, musicians, and emissaries to the other parts of the country.

Old Diaspora:

The first wave of the Modern Indian Diaspora, also called the Old Diaspora, began in the early 19th century and continued until the end of the British rule. The Dutch and French colonizers followed the suit. Indians were sent in large numbers to become the bonded labourers for sugar and rubber plantation in their colonies.

Indians in Caribbean, Africa, and Asia:

By the end of World War 1, there were 1.5 million Indian laborers in the colonies in the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia. At present, around 60% of Indian diaspora is constituted of this Old Diaspora.

Impact of Immigration policies on Migration from India:

After the Indian independence, a large number of unskilled and some skilled Punjabi male Sikhs migrated to the UK from India due to favorable immigration policies in the United Kingdom. Similarly, the 1990s onwards, due to software boom and its rising economy, H-1B was introduced in the US immigration policy that allowed the entry of highly skilled IT specialists, doctors, scientists and engineers in the US. Further, the 1970s witnessed oil boom in the Middle East that led to significant growth of Indian diaspora in the Gulf region.

While the low skilled and semi-skilled workers are moving to the Gulf region for better economic opportunities, highly skilled labor is moving from India to US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Has Indian Diaspora started impacting the economies and societies:

With the growing rate of international migration since the beginning of millennia, there is a significant impact of diaspora on the economies and societies of the world. In recent years, the diaspora is influencing the economic, political and cultural affairs in their homeland. It is so because the influence of the diaspora communities increases as they organize themselves and accumulate resources in their host countries for several years. The mobilized diaspora are now influencing the affairs of the homeland countries. A common form of exchange is the financial remittances provided to the relatives by the diaspora community. Overseas family networks of the political elites in India are shaping the political landscape as well. Culturally, the diaspora is influencing the music and literature trends in India as the content is consciously structured to cater to the tastes of the diaspora.

What actions have been taken by the government of India to tap the potential of Indian Diaspora:

The first Pravasi Bhartiya Divas was organized in 2003 by the Government of India to expand and reshape the state of India’s economy by the use of the potential human capital which the Indian diaspora reflects. Clearly, Indian diaspora has a larger role to play in the Indian economy over the coming years as the efforts to mobilize them increase in the homeland.

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Diwali Preparations Grow in US, from Disney to Times Square

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Dipawali
Diyas adorn every corner of the house on the celebration day of Diwali. pixabay

The holiday of Diwali in the US is starting to light up mainstream America. Diwali, a festival of lights celebrated by Indians all over the world, has long been observed in immigrant communities around the U.S.

But now public celebrations of the holiday are starting to pop up in places ranging from Disneyland and Times Square to parks and museums.

The Times Square event is the brainchild of Neeta Bhasin, who says that while many Indian immigrants have found great success in the U.S., “still people don’t know much about India. I felt it’s about time that we should take India to mainstream America and showcase India’s rich culture, heritage, arts and diversity to the world. And I couldn’t find a better place than the center of the universe: Times Square.”

Places in America where Diwali Celebrations will take place.

Bhasin, who came to the United States from India 40 years ago, is president of ASB Communications, the marketing firm behind Diwali at Times Square. The event, now in its fourth year, has drawn tens of thousands of people in the past. It’s scheduled for Oct. 7, from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., with dance performances, Bollywood singers, a bazaar of food, saris and other goods, and a lighting ceremony.

While Diwali celebrations are held throughout the fall, the holiday’s actual date is Oct. 19. Also called Deepavali, it’s an autumn harvest festival held just before the Hindu new year. Celebrations include lighting oil lamp called diyas and candles to symbolize “a victory of knowledge over ignorance, light over darkness, good over evil,” said Bhasin.

The Diwali celebration at Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, California, includes performances of traditional Indian dances and a Bollywood dance party for guests. It’s part of a festival of holidays at the theme park reflecting cultural traditions from around the world. The Disney festival begins Nov. 10 and runs through Jan. 7.

San Antonio, Texas, has one of the nation’s largest city-sponsored celebrations of Diwali, drawing more than 15,000 people each year. The 2017 event, scheduled for Nov. 4 at La Villita, a historic arts village, will be its ninth annual Diwali celebration with Indian dance, entertainment, food, crafts, fireworks and the release of lighted candles into the San Antonio River along the city’s River Walk.

New York City’s Rubin Museum will mark Diwali with an overnight Ragas Live Festival featuring more than 50 Indian classical musicians performing amid the museum’s collection of sacred Himalayan art. The event begins Oct. 21 at 10 a.m. and continues all day and night through Oct. 22 at 10 a.m. Chai and mango lassis will be served, visitors will have access to all the galleries and pop-up events like meditation and sunrise prayer will be offered. Special tickets will be sold for the opportunity to sleep beneath the artwork.

Other places hosting Diwali celebrations include Cary, North Carolina, in Regency Park, Oct. 14; Flushing Town Hall, Queens, New York, Oct. 29; the Seattle Center, Oct. 21; the Dulles Expo center in Chantilly, Virginia, Oct. 7-8; and Memorial Park in Cupertino, California, Sept. 30. In Columbus, Ohio, the Ohio History Center is hosting a photo exhibit about the city’s fast-growing population of immigrants from Nepal, Bhutan and India, with a Diwali event Oct. 8.

Bhasin said Diwali’s message is particularly timely now. “It is extremely important to be together and showcase to the world, not only Indians, but the entire immigrant community, to be together with Americans and to show the world we are one, we are all the same human beings,” she said.(VOA)