Latest US shootings leave people in India on edge

Sunayana Dumala (centre), wife of killed Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla, is consoled by family members prior to performing the last rites at his funeral in Hyderabad.
Sunayana Dumala (centre), wife of killed Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla, is consoled by family members prior to performing the last rites at his funeral in Hyderabad.PHOTO: AFP

Days after two shootings of ethnic Indians in the United States, New Delhi has again voiced strong concern over an apparent rise in hate crimes that has killed two and wounded two others.

Mr Deep Rai, a Sikh American living near Seattle, was shot in the arm last Friday outside his home by a man who allegedly walked up to his driveway and shouted "go back to your own country". It is the third shooting involving people of Indian descent in less than two weeks.

The day before, store owner Harnish Patel, a 43-year-old American of Indian origin, was found shot dead in his front yard in Lancaster, South Carolina, according to reports in US media.

It was unclear if this was a hate crime but India's Ambassador to the US, Mr Navtej Sarna, "conveyed deep concerns" to the US government over the attacks on Mr Rai and Mr Patel and stressed the need to protect the Indian community.

Indian diplomats have been in touch with both families, with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeting that she was pained to hear about Mr Patel's death and had spoken to the father of Mr Rai.

The violence comes as concerns grow over the safety of Indians under the Trump administration - which has cracked down on immigrants and promised to curb work visas and to stop foreigners from getting American jobs.

The Feb 22 killing of engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, has unnerved Indians in the US as well as families back home. India sends hundreds of thousands of students and information technology workers to the US.

Mr Kuchibhotla was shot dead in a bar in Kansas while sharing an after-work drink with Mr Alok Madasani, 32, by a man who reportedly screamed at the two men to "get out of my country". The alleged shooter, Adam Purinton, 51, has been charged with first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder.

While the Trump administration has assured Indian authorities of speedy justice, President Donald Trump's delayed reaction to the Kansas shooting - with comments expressing regret coming only a week later - has done little to assuage concerns in India, where the killings have made front-page news.

Among the most worried are students who are planning to apply to US colleges in the coming months, as well as their parents.

Ms Kavita Singh, chief executive of professional admissions consulting firm FutureWorks Consulting, said: "People are very worried. Parents are asking what is the impact on US campuses, whether hate crime are increasing.

"One question we are getting is whether they should avoid certain parts of the country. People going for postgraduate studies are more nervous because they want to work."

She added: "It is the first time we are facing these kinds of questions (with the US)".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2017, with the headline 'Latest US shootings leave people in India on edge'. Print Edition | Subscribe