Killing of Telugus in US linked to recession?

February 8th, 2009 - 12:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, Feb 8 (IANS) Is the spate of killings of students and professionals from Andhra Pradesh in the US linked to the economic meltdown and massive job losses in that country?

Telugus living in the US see a link between the rising crime rate in the US and the recession. But they don’t feel any particular ethnic community is being targeted.

Out of an estimated 2.7 million Americans of Indian origin, about 500,000 hail from Andhra Pradesh.

Nine professionals and students from Andhra Pradesh have been killed in different parts of the US in the last 14 months. In the latest incident, Rudraraju Sudheer Kumar, a mechanical engineer with Toyota Motors, was found murdered in his flat in Atlanta Feb 3.

Kumar, 31, was the third techie from the state to have been found dead in the US in less than a month. Muthyala Purushottam, 27, a software engineer, was found dead in his flat in Indianapolis Jan 20.

Akshay Vishal, 26, a software engineer, was shot dead by unidentified people in Little Rock in Arkansas Jan 13.

The series of incidents has left parents of Telugu students and employees in the US worried. The Andhra Pradesh government has taken up the issue with the US consulate here, demanding steps for the security of the Telugu community.

The Indian Americans who have spent considerable time in the US see a link between the series of killings and the current economic situation in that country.

“There could be a link between the two. The crime rate is going up with the recession. Lots of people are losing their jobs,” Ravi Madala, an Indian American and a leader of Telugu community in Florida, told IANS. Madala is currently on a vacation here.

Various Telugu associations in recent months took up the issue of the safety with local authorities in the US. But they have their own problems.

“The government is in dire straits due to local police job cuts. The police surveillance is down, there is less police patrolling and there are not enough officers available. In such a situation, criminal activity is bound to rise,” said Madala, who pointed out that these incidents were reported from across the country.

“However, I don’t believe that the Telugu community is the target. It is a much bigger problem,” said Madala, who has been living in the US for 16 years and heads a firm in supply chain business.

“With recent recession and credit crunch, Americans are feeling insecure, especially in the IT sector. They are worried about their own jobs and think that Indians are taking away their jobs by working for less pay. It makes me wonder if we are the target of hate crime,” said Sharat Kesiraju, a software engineer in San Jose, California, who is also here these days.

“What bothers me most is that the US police have not been able to track suspects in any of these cases,” he told IANS. But he also does not think that people from Andhra Pradesh are being specifically targeted.

“Among various ethnic communities in the US, the Indians are doing well and among Indians, Telugus have sizeable number. They are pursuing advanced degrees and have become successful software professional, engineers, doctors and business managers,” said Kesiraju, who is living in US for six years and did his masters there.

Madala feels that there was a need to create awareness among Indian community, especially among students, to prevent them from becoming targets. “The incidents are also due to people being at wrong places at the wrong time,” he said.

He wants Indian authorities to guide the citizens, especially students, on dos and don’ts. “Students are more vulnerable to such attacks because they take up part-time jobs in areas with high crime rates as they are offered more money than in other areas. Those who have no permits to receive money through banks take up jobs for cash at gas stations or fast food centres,” he said.

“The students are more vulnerable because they spend most of their time outside and return late in the night,” said Kesiraju, calling for more security on university campuses.

Gazal Srinivas, a popular ghazal singer and frequent traveller to the US, told IANS: “The Indians are also not taking enough care. Many of them carry cash or wear gold rings and chains.”

Senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member V. Hanumantha Rao wants the Indian government to take up the issue of the security of Indian citizens with the US authorities. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, however, has said it is highly improbable that students from India, especially from the southern state, are being targeted.

Minister for Minorities Welfare and NRI Affairs Mohammed Ali Shabbir has taken up the issue with the US Consul General in Hyderabad, Cornelis M. Keur, who assured him the matter would be brought to the notice of the US administration.

(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at m.shafeeq@ians.in)

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