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Do We Belong Here?

Families of Indian students and professionals in the US admit to living in constant state of fear and anxiety

In a shocking incident, an Indian engineer working in the city of Kansas (State of Missouri, US) was killed by an American navy veteran in what appears to be an incident of hate crime on Friday. The 32-year-old victim – Srinivas Kuchibhotla – was working at GPS-maker Garmin headquarters in Olathe.

Kuchibhotla was at a bar with his colleague Alok Madasani (injured but now stable) when the unfortunate incident took place. The 51-year-old shooter – Adam W Purinton – a US Navy veteran reportedly shouted “get out of my country” and “terrorist” to the Indians before opening fire. According to news reports, Purinton thought the victims were from the Middle East. He reportedly provoked them into an argument asking about their presence and work in his country, and how they are better than him. Thinking he was out of ammunition, 24-year-old American Ian Grillot, who was also present at the time of shooting, tried to confront the shooter but was fired at. He survived the attack and was quoted in The Washington Post as saying, “I was just doing what anyone should have done for another human being. It’s not about where he was from or his ethnicity. We’re all humans. I just felt I did what was naturally right to do.”

Do We Belong Here?, Lifeinchd
Photo By: Facebook

While the authorities are yet to give out details about the incident and haven’t called it a hate crime, the Indian community both in the US and back home is in shock. An estimated 300,000 Indians are working in the United States on H-1B high-skilled worker visas. And most of them are employed in the business outsourcing and software industries.

The climate of hostility worries families back home in India. “We always make sure to speak to our son once in the day on Skype. He is based in Boston. But such news is worrying as it makes us question what is their fault? Why are innocents targeted and whether it would be a good idea to ask them to come home?” questions Col (retd) Randeep Singh, a resident of Phase 9 in Mohali.

It’s a question that surfaced in Sunayana Dumala’s address to the media today. The wife of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, she has questioned the increasing bias minorities face in the US. “Do we belong here?” said a visibly distraught Dumala who wants to know what the US government will do to stop hate crimes against minorities.

“My daughter is an alumnus of London School of Economics. She is currently working in Bengaluru. Even though she wanted to be overseas for her professional career, as parents we were very concerned and called her back. It is not easy for families to cope with the stress and anxiety in such hostile times,” says Nupur Sharma, a Chandigarh-based homemaker who admits to spending many sleepless night worried for her daughter’s safety.

Since Donald Trump’s election as the US president in November, many people have expressed conce that hate crimes have risen as a result of Trump administration’s controversial ideas against immigrants. “This is not normal. We must declare our entire country a hate-free zone and fight to protect it as such. During this moment of tragedy, I stand with Indian-Americans, Muslim-Americans, and all groups impacted by the dangerous rhetoric coming out of the Trump administration,” said Pramila Jayapal, a Congresswoman and first Indian-American woman ever elected to the US House of Representatives.

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