NEW DELHI/BANGALORE - Indian officials expressed shock at the shooting death of an Indian engineer at a bar in the United States. U.S. authorities are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.
The incident was widely reported by Indian media and drew strong reaction on social media. Tens of thousands of Indians study and work in the United States and many say they are concerned about what they perceive as anti-immigrant rhetoric from the Trump administration.
But many young Indians and Indian-Americans in India have a more ambivalent reaction to the news.
“Part of me wishes I was home to be part of the protests and actions for peace, but another part of me is scared to see what will be waiting for me and the other desi Americans abroad right now when I get back,” Yasin Khan, an Indian-American from Connecticut currently in Darjeeling, told VOA.
Khan, like other Indian-Americans, says she was not shocked by the horrible news coming from her country, claiming that “unfortunately” shootings and hate crimes are not new.
“Growing up in America these kind of things happen so much,” Vishnu Reddy, an American medical student at Manipal University in South India, told VOA. “I’m definitely planning on going back to the states and settling there – I grew up there. I feel more at home there. And no I wouldn’t say that this changes my mind at all.”
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Friday that any loss of life is tragic, but said it would be absurd to link the killing to President Donald Trump's rhetoric. He said it was too early to determine a motive for the attack.
Indians who do not call the United States home may have more reservations about moving there as anti-immigrant rhetoric increases.
New form of racism?
“Clearly it hurts some people’s ideas about migrating to the US,” said Kshitij Agrawal, an engineer with Intel in Bangalore. “I mean it’s not so shocking because incidents like this have happened, but it’s a new form of racism that’s coming out.”
Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, died of the wounds he sustained when a man allegedly opened fire in a crowded bar in suburban Kansas on Wednesday. Another Indian and an American who tried to intervene were injured in the incident.
The Kansas City Star quoted a witness as saying a man shouted “Get out of my country” before shooting at the Indian men.
Adam Purinton, 51, was arrested hours after the shooting and has been charged with murder and attempted murder.
Kuchibhotla, who earned an engineering degree in India, went on to pursue a postgraduate degree in electronics from the University of Texas and then worked in the United States. He and his wounded colleague, Alok Madasani, both from the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, worked at Garmin International, a GPS navigation and communications company.
Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said in a Twitter post, “I am shocked at the shooting incident in Kansas in which Srinivas Kuchibhotla has been killed. My heartfelt condolences to bereaved family."
I am shocked at the shooting incident in Kansas in which Srinivas Kuchibhotla has been killed. My heartfelt condolences to bereaved family.— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) February 24, 2017
She said Madasani, who was injured, has been released from the hospital.
An Indian Foreign Ministry statement said that two Indian embassy officials were going to Houston to ascertain more details of the incident and monitor follow up action.
Condemning the shooting, the U.S. embassy in New Delhi said in a statement that “the United States is a nation of immigrants and welcomes people from across the word to visit, work, study and live.”
U.S. Charge d’ Affaires MaryKay Carlson said U.S. authorities will investigate thoroughly and prosecute the case.
Referring to the incident, an Indian lawmaker and a former junior foreign minister, Shashi Tharoor, tweeted that “the vicious racism unleashed in some quarters in the U.S. claims more innocent victims, who happen to be Indian.”
Such comments came amid rising concerns among middle class Indians – who have long aspired to study and work in the United States, that President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on immigration and jobs could fuel a climate of intolerance. Most Indian immigrants to the United States are technology professionals.
In Washington, Jay Kansara, from the advocacy group the Hindu American Foundation, called for the shooting to be investigated as a hate crime.
“Anything less will be an injustice to the victims and their families,” he said.
Indian media reports also highlighted the role of the American who pursued the assailant, some referring to him as a hero.