FIIDS urges US authorities to investigate rise in “suspicious” deaths of Indian students

Mohammad Abdul Arfath: PHOTO: X@IndianTechGuide

Deeply perturbed with the rise in “alarming and suspicious” deaths of Indian students in the United States over recent months, the Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS) has urged the Department of State, and Department of Justice to investigate the issue thoroughly and bring the perpetrators to justice.

The latest victim is 25-year-old Mohammad Abdul Arfath, a master’s student at Cleveland University, who went missing on March 7th and was found dead on April 8th in Cleveland, Ohio. It is reported that Arfath’s father received a ransom call for $1200 USD, and investigations into his death is underway. Three days before Arfath’s death, another Indian student Uma Satya Sai Gadde was also found dead in Cleveland.

These deaths have led FIIDS to also launch a survey to help understand the current situation and safety requirements of Indian students.

Chief of Policies and Strategy, FIIDS, Khanderao Kand, told News India Times, “As we observed a spike in Indian students’ deaths, we realized the necessity not only to bring to the attention of the US agencies but also to provide them with our analysis and recommendations, especially as we noticed that all cases were handled locally without finding a solution to this emerging alarming sequence of deaths.”

Terming the spike as “alarming” Kand said it necessary to investigate common connections behind the crimes, but also to create awareness and provide a support system to the students. Should this issue remain unattended, according to Kand, it could undermine the confidence of students in the safety of US Universities potentially impacting the inflow of students. According to Open Doors Report, Indian origin students account for 25 per cent of total foreign students and bring in $9B USD per year in fees and expenses.

Dr. Lakshmi Thalanki from Boston, who gathered data of more than 10 students who lost their lives, said, “The sudden surge of deaths among Indian students is alarming and suspicious,” in a statement released by FIIDS.

FIIDS conducted an analysis of the factors behind these incidents and discovered that they vary from questionable shootings and kidnappings, as well as environmental fatalities resulting from a lack of safety awareness around hazards such as carbon monoxide poisoning and hypothermia. The analysis also pointed to mental health leading to suicides, as well as incidents of suspicious accidents to violent crimes.

Since many deaths have occurred in Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana and pervasive “rumors of potential hate crimes” against Indians in those areas, FIIDS noted that it didn’t discover any definitive evidence backing up those rumors but urged authorities to further delve into the matter.

Kand pointed out “As of now, we do not have any facts indicating any coordinated hate crime against the community. However, we also understand that sometimes isolated incidents are triggered by ongoing misinformation or cultural separation. Hence, it’s important to investigate what are the triggers behind those crimes.”

As such, FIIDS has provided recommendations to the Department of State, Department of Justice, Department of Education, Universities, Student organizations, and the Indian-American community. Recommendations include Enhancing Safety Education, Improving Search and

Rescue Procedures, Implementing Stricter Rules Against Fraternity Ragging, Increasing Awareness of Risks and Safety, and Providing Mental Health Support.

In its recommendations, FIIDS asked the State Department to collaborate with “relevant agencies and foreign embassies to establish reporting mechanisms for hate crimes targeting Indian students” while requesting “guidance and support to consulates and diplomatic missions to assist victims of hate crimes and ensure their rights are protected.”

FIIDS has also requested the Department of Justice to “form a dedicated task force to investigate hate crimes against Indian-origin students and communities, ensuring thorough and impartial investigations” and to examine any links among the incidents that may be indicative of a potential series of hate crimes or a conspiracy.



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