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    Who is Rahul Dubey and why is the United States applauding him?

    Who is Rahul Dubey and why is the United States applauding him?

    Who is Rahul Dubey and why is the United States applauding him?
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    By Lavina Melwani   IST (Updated)

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    Ten days ago nobody had heard of him but now Googling Rahul Dubey generates 17,000,000 results. This Indian-American has got inextricably linked to the unfolding events in America in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, and shows that actions speak louder than words.

    Ten days ago nobody had heard of him but now Googling Rahul Dubey generates 17,000,000 results. This Indian-American has got inextricably linked to the unfolding events in America in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, and shows that actions speak louder than words.
    Right in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, another virus has infected America—the age-old virus of racism. On May 25, a white police officer pressed his knee against the neck of an unarmed and handcuffed black man. He kept his knee against his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds while three other officers watched. In spite of George Floyd’s cries of ‘I can’t breathe’ he kept the pressure on, even after the victim had no pulse.
    This police killing may have gone undetected, one more atrocity in over 400 years of racism—but this time it was filmed. Bystanders caught the crime on cell phone cameras and the gut-wrenching video became a powder keg, blasting the conscience of a nation.
    It has ripped through America, causing angry, grieving protests in over a hundred cities, with some looting and some violence but overwhelmingly peaceful protests led by blacks, whites and browns as people have come together. They have vented their anger and frustration at the years of injustice, of countless cases of police brutality against the black community.
    It is here that the story of Rahul Dubey, 44, an Indian-American healthcare entrepreneur, intersects with the story of protests in Washington DC. It was a scene seen on television screens by millions across the world, as US President Donald Trump ordered forced removal of thousands of young peaceful protesters from Lafayette Park by police troops in riot gear, wielding tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets, sending them scrambling into the streets.
    The president with his entourage then walked across the emptied park to stand outside St. John Episcopal Church in a show of strength, holding up a copy of the Bible in a photo op that flashed across the world.
    Meanwhile, the choking, tear-gassed crowds ran into an alley, pursued by the police, many mounted on horses. The protesters scattered in chaos, and some landed up on the stoop of Dubey’s compact three-story rowhouse on Swan Street.
    “Absolute mayhem and horror broke out,” he recalled to a television reporter later. “I heard a big bang, screaming, pepper spray started flying. My eyes were burning. I just started yelling ‘Get in the house!’ There was this sense of a human tsunami coming down the street and police beating people, putting faces down on cement. It was happening really fast - I just kept the door open and it was 20-year-olds, 30-year-olds, 15-year-olds coughing, just streaming into the house as fast as they could.”
    Without hesitation, he had flung open the door of his home to them and over 70 of them rushed in, choking and with streaming eyes. Some went upstairs, others downstairs and into the garden.
    With the police waiting outside to arrest them, right through the night Dubey ministered to this scared, tired crowd who had  nowhere to go – some aged 70, some as young as 16.
    According to various media reports and tweets, he seated a mother and daughter on the sofa, directed others to the room of his 13-year-old son who was away. He fed them what he had in his fridge, and even called for pizzas for them—a hard job to accomplish under police presence.
    Dubey tried to be the go-between the cops and the protesters, and when negotiations failed, he advised his guests to stay put in his home until the end of the curfew in the early hours of the morning.
    One protestor recalled later on Twitter: “They shot mace at peaceful protesters is a residential neighborhood. The man who took us in is named Rahul Dubey. He gave us business cards in case they try to say we broke in.”
    Another tweeted, “The officers just tried to break thru
    Away from this unfolding story in Washington DC, I spoke with a common acquaintance later. Kishan Putta, a neighborhood commissioner in DC, went in to assist Dubey during the mayhem. He told me, “Swan Street is a small side street. It’s a very beautiful tree-lined street and I always try to walk this street because it’s so pretty. I was thinking to myself, my god, they have pushed all these protesters onto such a small peaceful little street.”
    I asked him did he expect this from Dubey, to open up his home to scores of strangers. Putta said: “He’s a very, very, very giving person, a very caring, generous person, very passionate and tries to do the right thing in life and while I was impressed, I wasn’t shocked because he is the type of person to go above and beyond.”
    Dubey later told reporters: “After that first hour and a half of pure brutality and terror was something beautiful: neighbors started coming in and dropping off food, leaving notes. Lawyers were calling in and offering up advice; a local pizza place helped me to get pizza through a secret alleyway, which is unbelievable that we all kind of came on board when the police were trying to bait us to come outside so they could arrest the 70-plus people.”
    In the early hours of the morning the protesters felt safe to leave the house. Dubey recalled what he told the protesters as they left: “What has happened is traumatic. Do not keep it inside—we are here for each other and we are our vulnerabilities, it's what makes us who we are.”
    Needless to say, Dubey has become a hero to the protesters and to many across the country and the world for his big-hearted act. Some of the effusive tweets on Twitter ranged from “Rahul needs to run for president” to “Rahul Dubey should receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom ... when we have a president again.” Another tweet was simply, “I am crying. Thank God for people like him.”
    Dubey has made many new friends and fans on Twitter and in response to one of them he wrote, “Make sure you take care of that mental health, strength, so we can continue to go out there to rise peacefully with intelligence and make a solid argument. I love you guys.”
    Another friend gave a glimpse into the person he is: “I’m proud to know #RahulDubey for nearly 10 years. What we saw last night is not at all unusual for him. He is passionate about equal rights and compassionate about his fellow humans. Thank you, Rahul!”
    And that perhaps is the most important thing. You will hardly ever see a story about an Indian-American without details of his immigration saga, where his parents came from, what they did and what he does. It is usually about educational prowess, degrees garnered and dollars made. In telling Rahul Dubey’s story, none of those merits ink.
    Yet he feels he did nothing special. He shrugs it off as “I just opened a door.”  But in reality he did much more than opening a door—he showed the best of human nature when the worst of human nature was playing out on the streets. He told The New York Times, “I don’t think what I did was anything special. If it is, we have a ton of work to do in this country.”
    Rahul Dubey did not check the colour, caste or class of the wave of humanity that swept into his home. He was the perfect symbol of the Sanskrit dictum Atithi Devo Bhava—the guest is God.
    Perhaps with allies like him it is possible to heal America and begin the long road to reconciliation and justice.
    Lavina Melwani is a New York-based journalist who blogs at Lassi with Lavina.
    Read her columns here.
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