Within a short period of 5 months since October 2023, there have been 9 Indian and Indian-American students who have either been killed or have died, across the United States, leaving the minority community devastated and looking for answers.

The US Dream

The United States is home to many prestigious universities and colleges known for their high academic standards, cutting-edge research facilities, and renowned faculty members. Whether students are interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields, liberal arts, business, or the humanities, they can find programs tailored to their preferences.

Graduating from a US university can enhance a student’s domestic and international career prospects. Many employers value the skills, knowledge, and cultural experiences gained through US studies, making graduates more competitive in the global job market. The promise of these positive outcomes has drawn Indian students to seek higher education in US universities and colleges.

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To provide some statistics, according to the Open Doors Report (ODR) released in November 2023, the number of international students from India to the United States increased by 35 percent and resulted in an all-time high of 268,923 students in the academic year 2022-23, compared to the previous year. Indian students constitute over 25 percent of the over one million foreign students studying in the United States. The number of Indian graduate students rose by 63 percent to 165,936 students, an increase of nearly 64,000 students, compared to 2022, while Indian undergraduate students also increased by 16 percent. The data also showed India leading in the number of individuals (69,062) who pursued optional practical training (OPT), a type of temporary work permission that allows eligible students to get real-world experience related to their field of study. The detailed report from the U.S. Embassy in India indicates that the United States remains the top choice for Indian students pursuing higher education abroad.

Systemic failures at multiple levels

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Unfortunately, the promise of a better life has been short-lived for many Indian students with their shocking deaths, some under mysterious circumstances.

There have been concerns raised by parents of these students about the lack of responsibility or urgency shown by college administrators. What’s abysmal is the perceived apathy of the Indian consulate in asking tough questions and holding these universities and local authorities accountable for the safety and security of the Indian students here.

Just in the last 5 months at least nine Indian or Indian-American students have died –

      1. Varun Raj Pucha (24), a Computer Science student at Valparaiso University, Indiana, was stabbed in the head by fellow gym-goer Jordan Andrade as he reportedly found him “a little weird.” Varun succumbed to his injuries while undergoing treatment at a hospital a few days later in October 2023. (read)

        1. Aaditya Adlakha (26),  pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Cincinnati Medical School, Ohio, was shot dead in his car. He succumbed to his injuries two days after he was discovered with several gunshot wounds inside a vehicle that had slammed into a wall in Western Hills, a neighborhood in Ohio’s Cincinnati, on 9 November 9, 2023

          1. Gattu Dinesh (22) and Nikesh (21), pursuing master’s degrees in computer science at the University of Sacred Heart, Connecticut, were found unresponsive by local friends visiting their residence in January 2024. The suspected cause of death was a gas leak, but according to Sainath’s uncle Dinesh – “The cause is still unknown,” reported to TOI at that time. (read)

            1. Vivek Saini (25), was an MBA student at the Alabama University, Lithonia, Georgia. He was brutally killed by a homeless person James Faulkner, by repeatedly striking him with a hammer inside a store on January 16, 2024. The heinous murder was captured on CCTV, showing Juan Faulkner, hitting Vivek Saini with a hammer nearly 50 times. (read)

              1. Akul Dhawan (18), an engineering student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Illinois went missing on January 20, 2024, just before 1:30 am. After 10 hours, he was found dead on the back porch of a building near the university campus in west Urbana. Akul’s parents have alleged that the university’s police department was negligent. “This is bizarre, that a kid is never found who was just less than a block, like one minute away, sitting there, dead, frozen to death,” Ish Dhawan, his father, told the News-Gazette. “Imagine what’s going through in our mind as a dad and mom. I visualize every minute that my son froze to death on a university campus.” “We need answers,” his mother said. “What is the proof that they searched in this area, around the area they’re talking (about), this half-block? My kid would have been found.” (read)

                1. Neel Acharya (19), Pursuing a double major in computer science and data science at the prestigious Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, was found dead at 500 Allison Road in West Lafayette at about 11:30 a.m. on January 28, 2024, after police were called to investigate an unresponsive body near the labs. Tippecanoe County Coroner Carrie Costello released a statement indicating a forensic pathologist found no trauma on his body and that foul play was not suspected in the death. His preliminary cause of death and manner of death are pending toxicology results. (read)

                  1. Shreyas Reddy Benigeri (19), was a student of the Lindner School of Business, Cincinnati. The Consulate General of India in New York said on February 1, 2024, that no foul play was suspected at that stage, in the death of Shreyas.

                    1. Sameer Kamath (23), a doctoral student in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, was found dead at the Crow’s Grove Nature Preserve around 5 pm (local time) on February 5, 2024. A forensic pathologist’s autopsy was performed on the student’s body, indicating he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to Warren County Coroner Justin Brummett’s preliminary autopsy reports. (read)

                      1. A shocking incident took place in Washington DC on February 2, 2024, when Vivek Taneja (41), an IT executive and co-founder/president of Dynamo Technologies was attacked, knocked to the ground, and hit his head on the pavement, after an altercation outside a restaurant. Vivek succumbed to his injuries and died on February 7, 2024, in the hospital. (read)

                    Racism incidents in 2022: (read)

                    Statistics provided by the US Dept of Justice, show a staggering 59% of the total number of recorded hate crimes in the US in the year 2022 were attributed to Race/Ethnicity/Ancestry.

                    Of the known offenders, 51% were White, 21% were Black or African-American and others were Race Unknown.

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                    (Source: US-DOJ)

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                    (Source: US-DOJ)

                    Hindu places of worship vandalized:

                    These unfortunate student deaths in the past 5 months have added to the community’s anguish with at least 8 Hindu temples being vandalized in Canada and the US in the last 1 year since January 2023.

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                    The temples were defaced, with pro-khalistani and anti-India messages, while burglars looted some of them at night when the temples were closed. (read)

                    The fact that specifically Hindu temples have been attacked and defaced, is a direct sign of increased hate crimes and intimidation against the Hindu-American and Hindu-Canadian populations.

                    In addition to Hindu temples being attacked, the Indian consulate building in San Francisco was set ablaze, in an act of arson in July 2023. 

                    While thankfully no one was injured or died in that incident, these attacks by pro-khalistani supporters in Canada and the US against Hindu-Americans increased trepidation about safety and wellbeing among the minority community.

                    How long would it be before these vandalism attacks turn violent against Hindu devotees going to their places of worship, or against unsuspecting Hindu students in the US?

                    The road ahead:

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                    (Source: Various)

                    With the increasing number of students coming from India to the US, considering that the propensity of racist attacks against them could increase, it demands urgent attention from all concerned parties. 

                    1. College administrators have a responsibility to provide an optimal environment to students coming from abroad. 
                    2. It must be free from racism, and verbal and physical intimidation.
                    3. Focused and ongoing counseling must be made accessible to all students coming from abroad to help them adapt to their college campus life and to their new country, to adjust to a life so far away from their families and their country.
                    4. Outside of campuses, the local authorities and elected representatives from the government also need to step up to protect the Indian-American minority community. 
                    5. Finally, the offices of the Consulate General of India must improve govt-to-govt dialogue on the issue of student safety in the US and also provide strong support and follow-up for the devastated families when their child is missing or deceased.  

                    Apart from this, the religious hatred against Hindu-Americans needs to be taken seriously by the US govt and local authorities.

                      • There needs to be a sustained effort around Educational Programs to increase awareness and understanding of Hinduism and Hindu-American culture

                      • Community Outreach in engaging with the Hindu-American community to understand their concerns and collaboration with Hindu-American leaders

                      • Media Campaigns to promote inclusivity, tolerance, and respect for diversity including testimonials from Hindu-Americans highlighting their contributions to society

                      • Hindu Heritage Month celebrations in cities and counties should be taken up by elected representatives to highlight the significant contributions by Indian-Americans to the economical, scientific, educational, political, technological, medical and other industries in the United States.

                      • Training for Law Enforcement in effectively responding to hate crimes and bias incidents

                      • Legal Advocacy in working with policymakers and strengthening existing laws to prevent future incidents

                      •  Partnership with Schools to incorporate lessons on Hinduism and Hindu American history in the school curricula

                      • Interfaith Dialogues to increase mutual respect and solidarity and 

                      • Crisis Response and Support Services for victims of racist attacks.

                      • Media has an important role to play here, in being sensitive to the Hindu-American community’s concerns about their safety. Instead of condemning the Hindu temple attacks by pro-khalistani elements, some local media provided covering fire to the attackers by insinuating that the vandalism was geo-political rather than a hate crime. (read)


                    The US prides itself on being the beacon of hope for millions of people globally, looking for a better life here with the promise of security, free speech, fair treatment, and equal opportunity for all, irrespective of their religion, race, sex, nationality or any other characteristic.

                    The Hindu American community, like so many others, remains hopeful that this promise will be realized soon.

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