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Mistaken for ‘Middle Easterner’, Indian-origin engineer killed in US

Distraught wife Sunayna Dumala seek answers from Trump’s US

New York, February 26: An Indian-origin man was killed and another injured by a former Navy serviceman who mistook them for “Middle Easterners,” officials said.

The man also shot and injured a non-Indian American Ian Grillot, who is hailed as a hero as he tried to protect the two during the attack on Wednesday night in Olathe, Kansas State.

Srinivas Kuchibhotla died and Alok Madasani was injured when Adam W. Purinton shot them at the Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe, Kansas state, after telling them “get out of my country”, The Kansas City Star quoted a witness as saying.

Purinton, according to reports, provoked them into argument asking their presence and work in his country, and how they are better than him.

To avoid unwanted scuffle, the bar management asked him to leave the place, only to find him back at the bar later with gun when he fired at the Indians. Purinton was arrested after a bartender called the police saying “two Middle Eastern men” had been killed, according to local police quoted by The Star.

“It was a tragic and senseless act of violence,” Olathe Police chief Steven Menke said.

Kuchibhotla, 32, graduated from the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University in Hyderabad in 2005 with an electrical engineering degree.

He received a master’s degree from the University of Texas in El Paso and was working as an aviation program manager with Garmin, an electronics manufacturer best known for its consumer navigation systems.

The Hindu American Foundation’s (HAF) called the attacks a hate crime; as “the first reported bias-motivated fatality in the US after the bitter presidential election”.

“We call upon the US Department of Justice and local law enforcement to investigate this murder as what it is, a hate crime,” Jay Kansara, HAF’s Director of Government Relations, said.

Purinton has been charged with first-degree murder.

Indian government has condemned the killing

Union Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu on Sunday asked US to condemn the killing of Indian techie Srinivas Kuchibhotla and take astrongest’ action to prevent such attacks.

“American President and people should come out openly and condemn such actions and then take strongest action and send a message that this is not acceptable,” Naidu said.

Meeting reporters after consoling family members of Kuchibhotla here, he said India had taken up the issue with the US at the highest level and stressed the need to take steps to provide security and assurance to Indians living there.

Voicing concern over series of incidents of alleged racial discrimination, Naidu said it was the responsibility of the US government and the civil society to put an end to this.

The US “strongly” condemned the shooting

In a statement it said it has reached out to Indian consular officials to offer support.

The US Embassy in New Delhi expressed full faith in the US authorities investigating the matter. “We have full faith that US legal authorities will bring the case to justice,” the statement said.

Kuchibhotla is survived by his wife, Sunayana Dumala, who works in Kansas, US

She has now publicly sought answers to what she perceived was a spread in American hate crimes as mourners held a vigil at a local church for the victims of the bar shooting in which her husband died.

“I have a question in my mind: Do we belong here,” Sunayana asked at a news conference on Friday at the headquarters of electronics manufacturer Garmin, where Kuchibhotla worked as an aviation systems engineer.

“We’ve read many times in newspapers of some kind of shooting happening… And we always wondered, how safe we are?”

However, Sunayna wanted to persist to live in their home in south Olathe, fulfilling her husband’s wishes for an American life and “me being successful in any field I choose”.

But before making that decision, “I need an answer,” she said. “I need an answer from the government. …What are they going to do to stop this hate crime?”

She said her husband also would dismiss her own concerns that some people viewed them warily because of their ethnicity. “He would assure me that only good things happen to good people,” Sunayna said.

She grieved that their plan to have children was now gone forever with her husband murdered.

A small memorial for Srinivas Kuchibhotla outside Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas, US on Friday. Photo @AP
A small memorial for Srinivas Kuchibhotla outside Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas, US on Friday. Photo @AP

Mourners filled the First Baptist Church of Olathe in Kansas state on Friday for a vigil for the victims of the shooting. “Love each other” was the overarching theme as visitors were greeted with solemn but spirit-filled musical numbers before prayers were offered for the families of Kuchibhotla, Madasani and Ian Grillot.

Kuchibhotla’s family in India was in shock and sought help from the state and central governments to bring home his body.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday expressed “heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family” and said she had spoken to the Indian ambassador, Navtej Sarna.

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page created to collect money to help Kuchibhotla’s family crossed its $150,000 goal, raising nearly $250,000 in 11 hours.

More than 6,700 people, including Americans, donated $248,404 on the page created by Kuchibhotla’s friend Kavipriya Muthuramalingam.

Kuchibhotla is the second youth from Telangana to be killed in the US in February. Software engineer Vamshi Reddy Mamidala was shot dead by an alleged drug addict in Milpitas, California, on February 10, in the garage of his apartment building.

Distraught father tells parents not to send children to Trump’s America

Injured and hospitalised, Alok Madasani’s father, Madasani Jaganmohan Reddy, told the Hindustan Times that in recent months, he had begun to ask his son to return home, fearing that he might not be safe in the country’s racially charged atmosphere, with ugly incidents and hate groups on the rise.

“The situation seems to be pretty bad after Trump took over as the US president.

“I appeal to all the parents in India not to send their children to the United States in the present circumstances,” Reddy said.

An estimated 300,000 Indians work in the United States on H-1B high-skilled worker visas, most in the business outsourcing and software industry.

The Trump administration is reportedly considering limiting or changing the program, which has made many H-1B workers fearful.

Ramakrishna VenuGopal

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