Another Indian techie from Telangana has lost his life to gun violence in the US, while a second man is injured in the same incident. They were shot by a US Navy veteran, who allegedly yelled ‘get out of my country’ before firing bullets.
The death of Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Kansas, coming just days after the murder of Vamshi Reddy in California has left the parents of Indians living in the US very worried.
In Telangana, the fear is doubly high. The state sends roughly 1.3 lakh techies for education and work to the US every year, according to Telangana NRI Parents Association. For the families of these engineers, even a day without a phone call is a day filled with anxiety.
“My daughter is working in US. I have made it mandatory for her to call me twice a day after the recent incidents happening in US,” says Sreemala, a member of Telangana NRI Parents Association. “Last week, she forgot to call me at night and her phone was unreachable. I cannot explain my situation in words. I couldn’t sleep the whole night,” she said.
Sreemala says that this is the situation in almost every home where a family member is now in the US.
“After Trump, it has become worse. Earlier, there used to frequent robbery on the streets, but now they are shooting our children. Two incidents of shooting came into light within a month. How we are supposed to stay calm?” she asks.
Dr. M Rajkumar, president of the Telangana NRI Parents Association points out that not every parent who sends their children abroad for higher studies is rich. Most of them take loans to go abroad, making it much more difficult to come back without a job.
“They want to come back as there are safety issues, but they have responsibilities. Some have six more months to finish their course, some have just joined. After spending so much money on their education, even the children are saying ‘let’s see for few more days’,” he says.
“Earlier, the Optional Training Period following Post Graduation used to be for three years, which was enough for students to get a good job. However, now they have reduced it to one year. Students are under pressure. They were managing somehow until these incidents started happening, but now they are in a dilemma whether to stay or come back,” Rajkumar adds.
But for parents like Sreemala, their children’s safety is much more important than monetary concerns. “Earlier she used to explore different places along with her friends every weekend, but now even they are scared. She is mainly worried about the education loan, that's why she is still staying there. However, I told her we will manage and asked her to come back. But she won’t listen,” she says.
Parents in Telangana say that these attacks are racially motivated.
“Racism and gun culture have increased in the US after Trump. The killer said ‘go away from my country’ - is that even a reason to kill someone?” asks Rajkumar.
It’s not just the attacks that is worrying Indian techies in the US. Changes have been proposed to the H1B visa regime, including doubling the minimum salary to be able to get the visa, which will make it impossible for many to get a job, or to retain one they already have.
The association has demanded that the Telangana and Central government must take adequate steps to ensure the safety of the students staying in the US.
Meanwhile, the US Embassy in New Delhi has condemned the tragic shooting Kansas on Wednesday and have even reached out to Indian consular officials to offer support as they assist the victims.
The Embassy also says that the alleged shooter has been taken into custody and is expected to be prosecuted, while US Federal authorities are investigating the case.
Chargé d’Affaires MaryKay Carlson said, “We are deeply saddened by this tragic and senseless act. Our deepest sympathies are with the victims and their families. The United States is a nation of immigrants and welcomes people from across the world to visit, work, study, and live. US authorities will investigate thoroughly and prosecute the case, though we recognize that justice is small consolation to families in grief.”