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In India, People React To Killing Of IT Worker In Apparent Hate Crime


India is absorbing the news of a shooting outside of Kansas City. Last week, a gunman killed one Indian man and injured another along with an American. The Justice Department is now investigating whether the shooting was a hate crime. To tell us how people in India are reacting to this, we're joined by NPR's Julie McCarthy from New Delhi. Hi, Julie.


SHAPIRO: What is the narrative in India? How is the story being told over there?

MCCARTHY: Well, you have two Indian professional IT people - Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who was killed, and Alok Madasani, who was injured. There in the United States as high-skilled workers. There they're legally. They've got advanced degrees from American schools. They were living the archetypal dream for many Indians, and so there's nonstop coverage about this incident. Social media is buzzing with it and talking about a toxic atmosphere that might be taking hold in the U.S.

SHAPIRO: When you go out and talk to everyday Indian folks, did they feel that there's a toxic atmosphere? Are they reluctant to come to the United States?

MCCARTHY: Well, I asked this woman at a market that very question. What was her reaction? Without hesitation, she looked at me, and, she said, what is the U.S. coming to? This was Mrs. Kapur. She didn't want to use her entire name for fear of repercussions from her multinational company. She'd been to the U.S. before. But after this shooting, she told me she would think twice about going back.

KAPUR: Or if I am there, about being out on the road. I was reading the newspaper today that people are saying don't talk in your mother tongue when you're out in public places. People are saying to protect yourself, please talk in English. Don't create a scene. If there is a scene, just walk away.

MCCARTHY: Ari, I went to the Indian Institute of Technology today to talk to the IT talent there that's often plucked by U.S. firms to come to the states, and students said the Delhi campus sort of ran the gamut. One young woman said, I don't want to worry about sitting at a bar and wonder whether someone's going to come along and shoot me because of the color of my skin. Now, the gunmen in Kansas reportedly told a bartender that he had killed two Middle Easterners.

Another bigger current, though, was that student said to me, I don't feel welcomed right now in the United States, especially after this incident. I'm going to wait and see what happens with the Trump administration regarding visas and immigrants. And then there is the third group who says, I'd go tomorrow. You know, there's 2 million Indians in the U.S. And that idea that the U.S. is still a place where you can further yourself has really not been shaken among the young.

And one of them, Wasig Hussain - was an engineering master's student - told me that despite the sense of anti-immigrant attitude deepening, he'd go to the United States tomorrow if he could. Here he is.

WASIG HUSSAIN: Because everyone wants to live the American dream. That's a big thing. And why are you killing the American dream?

SHAPIRO: And, Julie, what about the Indian government? What do we expect to hear from them?

MCCARTHY: Well, you know, the public doesn't think they're going to hear a lot of noise being made by the Indian government with Washington. They just don't feel they have that kind of standing or that balance of power. However, the foreign secretary is due in Washington tomorrow and behind closed doors, he could deliver a rather stern message about what India would like to see by way of protection of its citizens in America.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Julie McCarthy speaking with us from New Delhi. Thanks, Julie.

MCCARTHY: Thank you.


Julie McCarthy has spent most of career traveling the world for NPR. She's covered wars, prime ministers, presidents and paupers. But her favorite stories "are about the common man or woman doing uncommon things," she says.