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People listen during a vigil in honour of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian immigrant who was recently shot and killed in Kansas, at Crossroads Park in Bellevue, Washington, on Sunday. Photo: Reuters
People listen during a vigil in honour of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian immigrant who was recently shot and killed in Kansas, at Crossroads Park in Bellevue, Washington, on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

Hate crimes: India raises concerns over attacks on Indian nationals

US State Department expressed condolences and assured they are working

New Delhi: India has taken up its “deep concerns" over the recent attacks on people of Indian origin as well as Indian nationals with the US State Department after the deaths of two such people in the US in the space of less than two weeks.

Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian who was in the US on a H1B visa, and Indian-origin American Harnish Patel were killed in suspected hate crimes in the US in recent days—triggering fears about travel and safety of those living in that country. A third Indian-origin American Deep Rai was shot in the arm by a masked attacker.

There are some 3.1 million Americans of Indian origin in the US and many thousands of Indians travel to the US for higher education, work or to visit relatives.

Indian ambassador to US Navtej Sarna “conveyed deep concerns" to the US government on the attacks incidents involving Harnish Patel and Deep Rai, the Indian Embassy in Washington said in a Twitter post late Sunday night.

“Amb @NavtejSarna underlined need to prevent such incidents and protect Indian community," another post said.

“State Department, on behalf of US Govt, expressed condolences and assured they are working... with all agencies concerned to ensure speedy justice," two other posts said late on Sunday.

Sarna’s meeting with officials in the US State Department came after US authorities began investigating the suspected hate crime shooting of a Sikh man Deep Rai at his home near Seattle. The 39-year-old was working on his car in his driveway Washington just south of Seattle, when a man walked up late Friday wearing a mask and holding a gun. According to a report in Seattle Times newspaper, the partially-masked gunman, after an argument with the victim, shouted, “Go back to your own country", before shooting him in the arm.

The incident follows a shooting at a Kansas bar last month that killed Kuchibhotla, 32, sending shock waves around the country.

Patel, 43, Indian-origin America store owner was shot dead outside his home on Thursday.

The attacks came even as Indian foreign secretary S. Jaishankar visited the US last week and discussed the safety of the people of Indian origin with John Kelly, US Secretary for Homeland Security, and others. The US House of Representatives’ speaker, Paul Ryan, slammed the shooting in a meeting with Jaishankar.

This came a day after US president Donald Trump in a speech to the US Congress on 28 February said: “The recent threats targeting Jewish community centres and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas city remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms."

But the US president, who has put in curbs on immigration, promised to bring back jobs outsourced by American firms and create employment at home for Americans, a central plank of his presidency, did not in any way indicate that he was diluting his stance on immigrants. It was also noted in India that Trump’s comment came almost a week after Kuchibhotla’s fatal shooting. In contrast, former US president Barack Obama had issued a statement within hours of an attack on devotees at a gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in August 2012, condemning the incident as a “senseless act of violence". Six people were killed in the attack.

India, on its part, had previously ruled out a diplomatic demarche, after charge d’affaires of US embassy in New Delhi, MaryKay Loss Carlson, strongly condemned “the tragic shooting" of Hyderabad engineer Kuchibhotla. 

But with the attacks continuing, Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj took to Twitter to express her views. “I am pained to hear about the killing of Harnish Patel a US national of Indian origin in Lancaster, South Carolina," she said in one post. “Our Consul has reached Lancaster and met the family of Harnish Patel. The investigation of the case is in progress," she said later.

On Rai’s shooting, Swaraj said: “I am sorry to know about the attack on Deep Rai a US national of Indian origin. I have spoken to Sardar Harpal Singh father of the victim."

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