US must proactively protect Indians

The killing of an Indian engineer, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, in Kansas has confirmed the worst fears of immigrants living in the United States — they can expect little security in Donald Trump’s America. Kuchibhotla’s assailant, Adam Purinton, shot at two others, including another Indian immigrant and an American national who intervened to stop the assailant. Purinton is reported to have shouted “get out of my country” before opening fire on them. Police have not described the shooting as a hate crime. But that it was fuelled by hate and racial prejudice is apparent. Even if Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric did not directly instigate Purinton to attack the Indian immigrants, his abusive rants demonising immigrants — he has described immigrants as “criminals, drug dealers and rapists” — and anti-immigrant policies have fuelled xenophobia in the US. An environment that thrives on vilification and hatred of ‘others’ encourages the unleashing of violence against them. The White Ho­use’s dismissal of any link between Trump’s rhetoric and Kuchibhotla’s killing as “absurd” is therefore an attempt at shaking off responsibility for the hate crime committed in Kansas last week. The Trump administration, on Tuesday, merely described the murder as “disturbing.”

At least some of the damage done by Trump’s racist rhetoric could have been undone had he spoken up to swiftly and unequivocally condemn the attack in Kansas. That the generally garrulous president did not is reprehensible and irresponsible. There is a disturbing pattern to his responses to rising incidents of hate crime in the US and abroad. He was silent when a white man opened fire in a mosque in Quebec in Canada in late January, killing six Muslims. He has been slow in responding to mounting anti-Semitism, bomb threats to synagogues and desecration of Jewish cemeteries in the US. When he did issue a statement, the promise of support to the Jewish community was half-hearted. With his silence on the killing of an Indian immigrant in Kansas, Trump has reaffirmed that his presidency thrives on anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim and anti-migrant bigotry. 

Racist and xenophobic attacks happened during Barack Obama’s presidency too. In 2012, for instance, a white supremacist opened fire in a gurudwara in Wisconsin, killing six Sikhs. Offering his condolences, Obama described Sikhs as “part of our broader American family.” The US Congress passed a resolution condemning the attack. Compare this to Trump’s irresponsiveness and his lack of empathy for victims of hate crimes. The Indian government must take up the issue of the safety of Indian nationals working and studying in the US. Indians are contributing enormously to the US’ economy and Washington owes them its protection. It is still not too late; Trump must reassure immigrants by putting in place robust measures to prevent hate crimes and protect religious and ethnic minorities.
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