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INDIANS (ASIAN)

INDIANS (ASIAN). The history and current profile of the Asian-Indian community in Greater Cleveland reflects the pattern for the entire U.S. Indians first settled in Cleveland in the early 1920s; their numbers increased, gradually at first, and more rapidly after the replacement of the Natl. Origins Act in 1965. The demographic characteristics of individuals immigrating from India have changed significantly during this century. The number of students on visas, formerly a large proportion of the immigrants, is still continuing, but is proportionately less. Later immigrants were family members and older, often coming to join family members who had settled in Cleveland after completing their educations at local colleges and universities. Statistics on Cleveland's Indian population for the years before 1960 are difficult to determine; from 1910-50, the U.S. Census grouped Indians together with a number of other nationalities under the headings "Others" or "Other Asians." The census records individuals of Indian origin in Cuyahoga County as early as 1880, but these individuals may have been ethnically British. However, it is certain that a small number of Indians, most of them university students, were living in Cleveland in the 1920s. Estimates set the size of the community at 100 in the 1930s. The censuses of 1960 and 1970 counted 170 and 307 Indians, respectively; that of 1980 recorded 2,216; and according to 1990 census data, the population in northeast Ohio had more than doubled, to 5,780. These immigrants included a large number of physicians and engineers, drawn by Cleveland's hospitals, industries, and universities, as well as people in other professions and businesses. Indians joining family members already resident in Cleveland were also a significant factor in the growth of the Indian community. Many of the permanent residents became naturalized citizens; temporary residents were mostly students.

Individuals from all regions of India have immigrated to Cleveland, though more have come from the state of Gujarat than from any other state. In the Cleveland area, the earlier immigrants lived primarily on the east side, in suburbs such as CLEVELAND HTS. and SHAKER HTS., near the major hospitals and educational institutions. In the 1970s and 1980s, Indians began settling in the western suburbs as well, so that by the mid-1980s it was estimated that about 60% of the Indian population lived in the eastern suburbs, and 40% in the western suburbs. The community's first cultural organization was the India Students Assn., which had its origins at a meeting called in Dec. 1962 to express concern over the Chinese invasion of India, and was attended by approx. 100 people. In 1964 the India Assn. of Cleveland was officially established. As of 1986, there were 8 organizations in Cleveland dedicated to the regional, cultural, and social interests of the Indian population. The Fed. of India Community Assn.'s of Northeastern Ohio, established in 1981, served as an umbrella organization for these groups and provided a unifying identity for Indians in Cleveland. The prime objectives of FICA were: 1) to act as a unifying force for diverse Indian culture; 2) to celebrate major festivals under one roof; 3) to help the Indian community merge with the American mainstream; and 4) to support charities and socio-educational needs of the Indian community as well as the larger, local community. Plans were underway to build a bigger hall and other facilities as the community has grown in number since 1992. The Indian community formed a bipartisan committee to study political issues, and a women's organization, the Assn. of Asian Indian Women of Ohio (AAIWO), was formed by professional Indian women to engage the American mainstream. Under FICA's coordination, the groups also lobbied in areas such as immigration and naturalization legislation, small-business development, and minority-status recognition. The INDIA COMMUNITY CTR. in Cleveland Hts. began as the only institution of its kind in North America, wholly owned by the entire Indian community. In 1976 an executive committee of community members decided to purchase a permanent facility for social and cultural activities, buying the Cedar Rd. building and renovating it to create a hall, kitchen, offices, and classrooms in 1978. Among the center's regular programs have been classes in language and Indian regional dance for young people and adults. The Lotus, a monthly newspaper published on behalf of the Asian Indian community of northeast Ohio, celebrated its silver jubilee in 1992. Distributed free of charge, Lotus has become the principal vehicle of communication for Cleveland's Indian population, in 1995 having a monthly circulation of 2,000 among families and libraries in Greater Cleveland.

Tansukh J. Salgia

Ohio Student Aid Commission-Columbus