US lawmakers publicly denounced the killing of an Indian engineer by an American navy veteran in an apparent hate crime in Kansas City, saying there is no place for these senseless acts of violence in the country.
Srinivas Kuchibhotla, a 32-year-old working at GPS-maker Garmin headquarters in Olathe, died of bullet injuries at a hospital after he was shot by the navy veteran yelling “get out of my country” and “terrorist” at a bar on Wednesday night in Kansas City in the state of Missouri.
His Indian colleague Alok Madasani was critically injured when the 51-year-old veteran opened fire on them. A third person, an American who tried to intervene, was also injured.
“We can’t let hatred win,” said Indian-American Senator from California Kamala Harris. “Extremely saddened to hear the news out of Kansas. My sympathies go out to the victims and their families,” the Democratic Senator said in a tweet.
“My thoughts are with the victims and families shaken by the shooting in Kansas. Senseless acts of violence have no place in our country. I’m heartbroken by this tragedy,” said Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.
Jayapal is the first Indian-American woman ever elected to the US House of Representatives.
The incident has reignited fears of hate crimes among the immigrant Indian community. According to eyewitnesses, the shooter believed the victims were from the Middle East.
Jayapal said since Donald Trump’s election as the US president in November, hate crimes have risen as a result of his administration’s controversial ideas against immigrants.
In the Seattle suburb of Redmond, a Muslim Association of Puget Sound mosque was twice vandalised since the election.
“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,” Jayapal added.
Indian-American Congressman from California Ro Khanna in a statement said his condolences go out to the families of the men involved in this senseless act of violence in Kansas City.
“Any act of violence fuelled by hatred and xenophobia and prejudice cannot be tolerated. I have faith in local and federal law enforcement to justly investigate this shooting as a hate crime,” Khanna said.
Democratic Congressman from California Brad Sherman said the victims and their families were in his thoughts and prayers. “Xenophobia and hatred do not belong in America.”
Republican Congressman Scott Perry from Pennsylvania said: “This kind of violence has no place in our society. My heart and prayers are with the entire Kansas City metro area and all those impacted by this horrific incident.”
“This was an attack not only on the victims, but on the sense of security of Indians, Indian-Americans, and millions of other people of colour across the nation,” Indian-American Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi from Illinois said.
“Along with so many throughout the world, I have always believed in the ‘American Dream’ of our country as a place where regardless of where you come from, the colour of your skin, or how you pray, you can build a better life. This shooting was a brutal, racial attack on two men, and on the fundamental values of our nation. It follows a spate of hate-motivated attacks on others in this country,” he said.
He urged his colleagues in Congress, those in the executive branch, and all Americans, to actively work together not only to prevent future attacks, but to directly address the “underlying culture and climate which have led to them”.
The South Asian Bar Association said reports and witnesses indicate the motivation for these crimes was rooted in anti- Muslim hate, xenophobia and racism. “While details continue to emerge, if true, we expect the governmental authorities to prosecute this act for what it is a hate crime,” SABA said.
“Governments must protect the rights of minorities and ensure the safety of all of its citizens. Yet, in the face of senseless violence and apparent hate crimes, the calls for support, solidarity and protection by our government remain faint,” said SABA president Vichal Kumar.
South Asian-Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national advocacy body, said it was deeply disturbed by the incident.
“This incident is the latest in a rising tide of hate violence against South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern and Arab communities, electrified by the president’s anti-immigrant policies,” stated Suman Raghunathan, executive director of SAALT.
“When our ‘so-called’ leaders attempt to govern from an angle of xenophobia, these sentiments embolden deadly violence against our communities,” she said.