In partnership with the North American Association of Indian Students, the Trotter Multicultural Center hosted an in-person event on Tuesday night with Indian activist Sudhanshu Kaushik as the guest speaker and about 100 people in attendance. The Indian video streaming service ZEE5 sponsored the event, which featured Bollywood music and film.
Kaushik is the executive director of NAAIS, a nonprofit organization aiming to uplift the social and economic well-being of Indian international students and Indian Americans residing in the United States.
Kaushik said NAAIS partnered with ZEE5 to tour college campuses across the United States and network with Indian students. He said networking with this group is important given that Indians make up the second largest minority group of international students on college campuses.
“Our goal is to ensure that we can educate and raise awareness about young Indians across the United States,” Kaushik said. “The biggest thing is that there’s a channel for creating communication and sharing stories.”
Kaushik said he believes it is important to understand how every Indian student’s university experience is different, specifically highlighting the perspectives of Indian international students, Indian graduate students and Indian-American students. Kaushik also said there needs to be more awareness of the recent rise in hate crimes against Indians.
“The scale at which (Indians) are at (universities) makes them more accessible to becoming targets and victims of hate crimes,” Kaushik said. “Going beyond that, there’s just so much fragmentation, and there’s not a cohesive unit. We’re trying to create awareness of them and connect them with their city with their local regional governance, state and federal level.”
“What COVID did was it showcased that there’s a disconnect — a disconnect between Indian students, and a disconnect between them and the administration,” Kaushik said. “Whether it’s the university, or whether it’s the city, state, or our national level. This organization was started in 2020, but the history of Indian students in America is substantially old and significant.”
Rackham student Shaunak Puri, one of the presidents of University of Michigan’s Indian American Student Association, said in an interview with The Michigan Daily he hopes people get more involved with the university and national community of South Asians. He said IASA aims to work on building those connections nationally.
“I think something that I have learned over the last couple of weeks, is that we as IASA, are this connection point to a much broader network of Indian organizations across the country in the Michigan area,” Puri said. “I think that what I would want our members to gain is that sense of being part of something bigger that this (event) sort of opens the door to.”
LSA senior Jhanvi Garg, IASA’s other president, echoed the hope for more IASA club members at the University to get more involved in issues that pertain to Indians in the United States.
“I think that this was a great event to highlight the power that Indian voices have,” Garg said. “I think a lot of times we get shoehorned into the minority mindset of ‘we’re just Indian, we can’t really make that much of an impact.’ I think it’s a great message to our members — and the Indian youth nationally — that you really can get involved in politics and policy if you want to and they definitely should exercise their rights.”
Business senior Delna Sholapurwalla, board member of IASA, said in an interview with The Daily IASA considered the shift between virtual and in-person during the pandemic to help create engaging events for IASA members.
“Last year, everything was over Zoom, so we really did our best to get membership engaged and tried to put on some high quality events,” Sholapurwalla said. “This year, it’s a lot more (of) trying to get people pumped (to be) in-person … and we’ve definitely noticed high engagements.”
LSA sophomore Nidhee Reddy, a member of IASA, said she joined IASA and attended this event to get more involved with the University’s community of Indian students.
“I’ve always wanted to keep the sense of (community) that I had back home, (so) I think it’s really important to stay connected with your culture,” Reddy said.
During his speech, Kaushik said he believes that while the perspectives of Indian students are often underrepresented, their stories and experiences are still important and worth telling.
“We’re trying to organize and effectively (channel) this huge energy of potential that we have with Indian Americans towards creating a larger, more significant community for them, but history matters,” Kaushik said. “I want you to know that your history matters … it’s the fact that you represent something more significant, something more larger that isn’t talked about, that isn’t spoken about overall for the South Asian community, but specifically for the Indians as well.”
Daily Staff Reporter Nirali Patel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.