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Statement by External Affairs Minister on Matters of Urgent Public Importance raised in Lok Sabha on March 9, 2017, during Zero Hour on the Recent Incidents of Attack on Members of Indian Diaspora in the United StatesMarch 15, 2017
Hon’ble Madam Speaker,
- I rise to make a statement to brief this august House on the recent incidents of attack on members of Indian Diaspora in the United States.
- In last three weeks, three incidents of physical attack in the United States on Indian nationals and Persons of Indian Origin have come to the notice of the Government:
(i) On February 22, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, a 32-year-old Indian engineer at GPS device-maker Garmin was shot dead by a US national, Adam Purinton in a crowded bar in Kansas City suburb of Olathe. Another Indian national, Alok Madasani, present on the spot was also injured in the shooting. Ian Grillot an American national, who tried to stop the shooting, was also shot and injured during the incident. Both the injured persons have received treatment and have since been discharged. The accused, Adam Purinton, has been arrested by the Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] has taken over the case and is investigating the same as a case of ‘hate crime’.
(ii) On March 2, Harnish Patel, a US national of Indian origin, was shot dead by unknown individuals in Lancaster, South Carolina. According to the Sheriff and the family, the incident was, in all likelihood, a case of robbery gone wrong. Investigations are underway to identify the culprits and to ascertain if this was a racially motivated crime.
(iii) On March 4, Deep Rai, a US National of Indian origin, was shot by an unknown person in Kent, near Seattle in Washington State, allegedly after being asked to leave the country. We understand that Mr. Rai is safe and out of danger. The culprit is yet to be arrested. The Kent Police Department is taking the lead in the investigation of the case, assisted by the FBI. The investigating agencies are yet to establish that it is a ‘hate crime’. Shri Deep Rai has received treatment and has been discharged from the hospital.
- In all three cases, the Government, through its Embassy and Consulates, immediately reached out to the affected persons and their families for extending all possible help and support. I have personally spoken to the families of Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Deep Rai.
- The Government has taken up this issue with the US Government at very high-levels and conveyed our deep concerns. We have called for necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of Indian Diaspora and expeditious investigation into these incidents. Foreign Secretary discussed this matter in his meetings with Cabinet Ministers and senior functionaries of the US Administration as well as with the Congressional leadership during his recent visit to the US (February 28 – March 3, 2017). The US authorities have responded strongly and assured us that they are working with all concerned agencies to ensure speedy justice.
- There has been widespread condemnation of these incidents by the U.S. leadership, both in the Administration and the Congress:
- President Donald Trump referred to the Kansas shooting in his address to a joint session of Congress on February 28 and said that the US "stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms”.
- After his meeting with Foreign Secretary, Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan issued a statement expressing the House’s condolences on the killing of Srinivas Kuchibotla. The House also observed a moment of silence over the incident.
- Governor of Kansas Sam Brownback has offered his condolences and assured thorough investigation. In a letter to Prime Minister, Governor Brownback has praised the "ingenuity, hard work and determination” of the Indian Diaspora as well as their contributions to the State of Kansas. He has assured that Kansas will remain "a welcoming, hospitable place” for Indians.
- Several Senators and Congressmen have also expressed their condolences and regret over the tragic incidents. They have been deeply appreciative of the contribution and role of the Indian community in the U.S.
- Most recently, on March 9, US Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly issued a statement strongly condemning the incidents. In his statement, he said – "I strongly condemn any violent acts to perpetuate fear and intimidation not only against individuals, but entire communities. I pledge the full support of the Department of Homeland Security to assist local, state, and federal investigations into these incidents.” Secretary Kelly further said – "the United States has a history of welcoming and accepting individuals regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or national origin.” He committed that his Department will work closely with foreign governments whose nationals have been affected by these violent acts.
- Madam Speaker, people-to-people contacts are the foundation on which the India-U.S. strategic partnership has been built. The fact that broad sections of the American society have expressed their deep sorrow and regret over these incidents reassures us that despite these individual incidents, the American society values the people-to-people engagement between our two countries.
- In the discussion on March 9, Shri Bhartruhari Mehtab and Shri Mohammad Salim referred to a ‘travel advisory’ issued by the US Government which apparently advises the US nationals against travelling to India. I would like to inform the Hon’ble Members that there is no Travel Advisory in force for India at present. A reference to India has been included in their "Worldwide Caution” report which the US State Department releases every six months (in March and September every year). These are in the form of broad assessment of threat perceptions. Such references to India have been included in previous reports as well and do not reflect the change of Administration in the US. In fact, India-specific references were far more detailed in previous reports. Having said that, issuing travel advisories is a well-established global practice and Government of India has also issued travel advisories in the past for Indian citizens visiting the U.S. in specific situations.
- A related question was raised by the Hon’ble Members whether the Government plans to issue an advisory for Indians travelling to or residing in the US. I would say that prompt and clear response of the U.S. political leadership and the law enforcement authorities to these incidents and the widespread messages of sympathy and support from all quarters in the U.S give us confidence that these incidents are acts of individuals and do not represent the overwhelming sentiments of the American people towards India. This was demonstrated by the American national Ian Grillot who suffered serious injury while helping the two Indians. I have saluted his heroism and am sure the House joins me in wishing him speedy recovery.
- I would like to reassure this House and the Members that safety and security of Indian Diaspora abroad remains a top priority for this Government. We are in a continuous dialogue with the US Government. Close contacts with the local Indian community groups are being maintained through our Embassy and Consulates to address any emergent issues. We will remain vigilant to developments impacting the lives of Indians abroad and do everything possible to safeguard their interests and welfare.
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