Nose Stud = No Job

Lalji, wearing teeny tiny nose stud.

Heathrow aiport caterers Eurest UK fired Amrit Lalji, 40, of Stanmore, north-west London, who worked in an airport VIP arrivals lounge, for failing to remove her nose jewelry (BBC). She wore the stud for more than a year before a manager told her to remove it.

Eurest’s official statement includes the following information on the hazards of mixing nath and naan: “Jewellery can harbour bacteria, create a hazard when working with machinery and find its way into the food people eat.” Lalji’s temple, union, and the mayor of London have spoken out against the employer’s decision to dismiss her.

The Stanmore Swaminarayan temple and the Hindu Council UK find the firing unjust and the temple has given “a letter to Amrit, quoting Hindu religious scriptures in order to prove that wearing a nose stud is part of Hindu faith.” Lalji, who came to the UK from Kenya, says “My family is originally from Kutch, Gujarat. As a Hindu, I have imbibed the tradition of wearing the shringar of a married woman from my mother.” (The Pioneer)

Union official Tahir Bhatti states that “this is not a fair way to proceed and must be reversed and dress codes introduced which deal with all religious matters.” (“GMB Member At Heathrow Sacked For Refusing To Remove Religious Nose Pin”) London Mayor Ken Livingstone has described the dismissal as an attack on her right to freely express her religion and on her right as a woman to dress as she wishes. He argued that “the suggestion that wearing a tiny nose stud is a threat to public health and safety is frankly ridiculous. Will this company now be sacking all women with pierced ears?” (The Press Association)

More: “The nose-stud wars: Political correctness or corporate practice?”

Update: After an internal hearing, Lalji’s employer decided that “the rules relating to facial piercings were mandatory only in catering operations.” She did not engage in catering and has been reinstated. (BBC).

Comments Off on Nose Stud = No Job         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   September 19, 2007

Designer Accused of Sexual Assault

Anand Jon

Indian designer Anand Jon has been charged with six counts of sexual assault as well as forcible rape and lewd acts on a child. According to authorities, the charges stem from encounters between Jon and two women and also a fifteen year old girl. The designer, who was arrested on March 6, is being held on 1.3 million dollars bail. In addition, according to this ABC News article, Jon’s immigration status has also been called into question. Jon’s attorney denied the assault charges and claimed that his client was legally in the US on a professional work visa.

Comments Off on Designer Accused of Sexual Assault         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   March 14, 2007

Total Denial: Doe vs. UNOCAL

Total Denial

Shot in Burma, Thailand, Europe, and the U.S. courts between 2000-2005, Total Denial documents the story of a historic lawsuit: Fifteen villagers from the jungles of Burma bringing suit in U.S. courts against a giant oil corporation for human-rights abuses committed in the mid-1990s by soldiers providing security for Unocal’s natural gas pipeline in southern Burma.

The plaintiffs achieved victory in Doe vs. UNOCAL after 10 years of fierce legal battles. John Doe IX, who had done back-breaking forced labor, said, “I don’t care about the money. Most of all I wanted the world to know what Unocal did. Now you know.”

Producer/director Milena Kaneva documented the abuses of villagers with help from Ka Hsaw Wa, a member of the Karen, an ethnic minority discriminated against by Burma’s military regime. Award-winning environmentalist and human rights activist Ka Hsaw Wa was also one of the leaders of the Burmese student democracy movement in 1988. In hiding in the jungle for more than seven years, he gathered the evidence of thousands of victims. At the federal court hearings, Kaneva’s camera was the only one allowed.

Total Denial is part of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival 2007. Other films running at the festival include the Oscar-nominated My Country, My Country, and Black Gold, an exploration of the the global coffee trade from Ethiopian bean growers to multinational companies to U.S. coffee consumers.

HRW 2007 International Film Festival

Comments Off on Total Denial: Doe vs. UNOCAL         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   February 15, 2007

SAALT Summit

SAALT Rally in DC (SAALT.Org)

DC-based non-profit SAALT, the South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow, will be hosting the South Asian Summit March 16th through the 18th.

“It will be an opportunity for organizational leaders and community members around the country to engage with policymakers, federal agency representatives, South Asian advocates, and funders,” says SAALT’s Executive Director Deepa Iyer.

Workshop topics range from the practical (how to effectively build a grassroots movement) to sessions that focus on emerging policy issues (“restoring civil liberties” and “worker rights”).

For more information, and to find out how you can register, visit

Comments Off on SAALT Summit         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   February 13, 2007

Attorney Receives Angel Award

hitesh barot

Out of more than 200,000 attorneys throughout the state, California Lawyer magazine awarded its inaugural Angel Award to 16, most of whom are partners. The award honors “those idealistic attorneys who have made substantial pro bono contributions.” Hitesh S. Barot, one of only two associates receiving the award, was honored for his pro bono work in securing a settlement in a case brought under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act for an Indian woman who was brought to the Los Angeles area, forced to work long hours, effectively imprisoned in the house, and sexually assaulted by an acquaintance of her employer. She escaped with the help of the South Asian Network and since 2004 a team of lawyers had been working on the case together with the ACLU.

Barot initially began working on the case in October 2005 because he was able to translate Hindi. He soon took over the matter, gaining the trust of the plaintiff, who had been suffering from post-traumatic stress. A graduate of UC Berkeley’s engineering and law schools who is active in local and national South Asian bar associations, Barot told India Journal, “I was surprised and humbled to be recognized along with veteran luminaries in the pro bono space…This case resonated with me because I have known others in our Indian community who have been mis-treated the same way and so it was particularly important for me to give my client a voice and empower her to strike back at those who wronged her.”

Domestic Workers’ Resources

1 Comment         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   February 9, 2007
Read more stuff

Fifth Anniversary Comes and Goes For Guantanamo

“Demonstrators — some wearing Guantanamo-style orange jumpsuits — staged protests from Melbourne to London and Washington on Thursday against the U.S. military prison in Cuba where terrorism suspects have been held for years without trial.”

January 11 marks five years since detainees were first “shackled, blindfolded” and flown to the camp in Cuba. In total, 770 people have been imprisoned there. Of them, only 10 have been charged with crimes.

“The idea that you can indefinitely detain people, give them no access to their families or initially lawyers, never charge them and torture them in an offshore penal colony, should be absolute anathema to any civilized country in the world,” Michael Ratner of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights told the LA Times.

Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son died while serving in Iraq, led protesters in a march to the gates of the Guantanamo facility, shouting “Gitmo prison is a source of shame; no more torture in our name!”

Newly appointed UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon has also called for action to be taken, saying: “like my predecessor (Kofi Annan), I believe the prison should be closed.”

Comments Off on Fifth Anniversary Comes and Goes For Guantanamo         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   January 12, 2007

It’s a “Thums-Up” From Manmohanji

Gould Book Cover
Photo from Amazon.Com

UVA scholar, author Harold Gould calls the book his “labor of love.”

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said it is the best thing he has read all year.

Critics have decided it is “vastly important…for desis, for all South Asians in America, to read and savor” (“It is their story; it is their history. It has never been told before—not so elaborately, so forcefully, or so compellingly.”).

And we think it will make the perfect holiday gift for the history buff on your list.

Now out in hardback, Sikhs, Swamis, Students and Spies: The India Lobby in the United States, 1900-1946 offers readers a look at the systemic racism early South Asian immigrants were forced to contend with. It considers the process of political awakening they went through in their struggle for civil rights here.

It is a relatively new-release, but has anyone read it yet? Let us know what you think.

( And PS: be sure to check back for an upcoming issue with Gould’s take on the Komagata Maru tragedy of 1914)

1 Comment         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   December 20, 2006

Goode Says Some Bad Things

Virgil Goode
Photo source

“I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.”

So writes Republican congressman Virgil Goode in a letter released earlier this week.

Goode warns us that without appropriate immigration-reform, “there will be many more Muslims elected to office, demanding the use of the Quran.”

The Virginia-politician wrote the letter in response to Minnesota Rep.-elect Keith Ellison’s swearing in (Ellison will be the nation’s first Muslim congressman, and has asked that a copy of the Quran be used instead of the standard-issue Bible).

Says Goode: “We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country.”

Read the whole letter here. And give us your two cents-worth in the comments- section below.

(Source: CNN)

3 Comments         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   December 20, 2006

International Law

Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India. Source.

You’ve heard of American law schools (like George Washington University) setting up shop in India.

Well word is, another will soon be following suit.

David Van Zandt, a dean at the Northwestern University School of Law, is in India this week, speaking to administrators at both private and public colleges there.

Says Van Zandt: “In the rapidly changing world scenario, lawyers need to have multiple skills, as they often spearhead global alliances and mergers and acquisitions. The emergence of common international model for transactions and dispute resolution, common language and new aggressiveness are some factors that have given us the impetus to increase our drive to enroll students for India.”

Um, okay. But what do you say? With business schools and medical colleges going global, this sort of extension is becoming something of a trend. Do you see it as a good thing?

(Source: Business Standard)

Comments Off on International Law         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   December 19, 2006

Child Labor in India and Anita’s Story

According to India’s labour ministry, “there are 12.6 million children aged between 5 and 14 working in the country — the largest number of child labourers in the world.”

The real number could be higher, given the unknown size of the child domestic work force. “‘It’s difficult to say how many children do domestic work as it’s such a secretive thing and you simply can’t go around poking into people’s houses,’ said Manab Ray, manager of Save the Children’s Child Domestic Workers Project.” (“India’s child maids resigned to life of servitude,” Reuters, 11/19/06.) provides a personal account of a young couple in Bangalore who noticed an abused nine-year-old child servant, Anita, working for their downstairs neighbors. They took action by contacting local NGOs and the police, and continuing to follow her progress through the child welfare system. Anita shares her story in Hindi (“translation to come”) on video: 1, 2, 3.

More information: Child Workers in Asia, Concerned for Working Children

Update: A follow-up on Anita’s progress—Anita goes home.

Comments Off on Child Labor in India and Anita’s Story         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   November 21, 2006