Adam W Purinton, a Caucasian male who joined the American Navy to serve his nation, may have been disillusioned by how his life spanned out despite believing in ‘lofty ideals’ of answering the call of national duty. That may have been one of the reasons why he became a beer guzzler and lost control of his senses. But his murder of Indian software engineer, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, and attempted murder of another, Alok Madasani, at a bar in Kansas, cannot be dismissed as the work of a disillusioned drunkard.
Some news reports that said Purinton mistook the Indians for West Asians seemed to suggest shooting Arabs wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Other reports said that Purinton had asked his victims if they were illegal immigrants before shooting them, hinting that President Donald Trump’s electoral campaign and proclamations thereafter may have influenced the shooter.
These are biases that crept in because the reporters were in their subconscious mind looking for reasons to justify Purinton’s heinous crime committed without rational. But in my opinion someone else’s propaganda is insufficient to kill a fellow human that one hardly knew and without a definitive motive. I would rather think that people like Trump know well that there are many like Purinton and only try to manipulate the situation by making remarks that appeal to them.
In my opinion, one ends up with such irrational hatred only when fundamental biases against fellow humans are inculcated by parents and other members of one’s family in childhood. Whether it is America or India, even today many children are brought up to believe humans are not equal, that some are superior than others; some are worse than animals; some don’t deserve to be respected; some are a threat to society; some are anti-nationals; some don’t deserve to live etc.
What sociologists define as racial, religious, casteist or class bias are nurtured at home, irrespective of where we live. There may be instances of good teachers or exposures changing a person’s outlook for the better but unfortunately such instances are not too many. The Trumps of the world only manipulate the biases for furthering their political career. That doesn’t absolve them from what they are doing though.
Immediately after Kuchibholta’s murder, India’s Information and Broadcasting Minister, Venkaiah Naidu, asked why Trump had not condemned the murder. That was quite amusing considering that Naidu and his Bharatiya Janata Party brushed aside questions on why Prime Minister Narendra Modi had not condemned the lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri almost one-and-a-half years ago.
We were then told that Akhlaq’s murder was a local law and order incident and the Prime Minister of India was too important a person to condemn that incident. So why did Naidu expect Trump to do something that he did not expect Modi to do?
To set the record straight, Trump did respond, and not indirectly by having the White House spokesperson to read out a statement. He condemned the incident in his first State Of The Union Address to the American Congress: “…last week's shooting in Kansas City reminds us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.” While Modi touched upon instances such as Rohith Vemula’s death, till date he has not condemned Akhlaq’s murder.
By the time Trump had condemned the Kansas murder, Naidu and his colleagues had found a new grouse — ‘anti-nationals’ in universities. “Who is polluting the mind of a young girl,” asked Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, when a college student showed remarkable maturity and tried to tell fellow citizens that hate was the cause of all crimes.
I would rather not waste my time on a useless politician whose only job seems to be to churn out tasteless quotes every now and then and who remains in the Union Cabinet just because of the state he represents. But I am curious to know who taught him English. It’s time someone told him that a female who is 20 years old is not a ‘young girl’ but a woman. I would also like to know what he thinks of Buddha’s basic teaching, ‘desire is the cause of all evil.’
But what did Kuchibhotla’s wife mean when she asked, “do we belong?” Is that a question that she wants to ask the Trump Administration, or the people of the United States? Or is she asking that question to herself? I don’t think that she will get a satisfactory answer from the US administration or the people of the United States. She has to ask herself the question, ‘where do I belong?’
The answer would depend on what her priorities for the future are. America is no paradise, though millions of Indians and other migrants would believe that it has provided them with a better life. And not even a percentage of these millions would have suffered Kuchibhotla’s unfortunate fate though most of them may have come across some form of discrimination or hate, sometime or the other. But if these migrants have decided to stay back in the US, it is because they have inferred that living in the US was better than going back to the place they came from.
If Kuchibhotla’s wife has decided to go back, it makes no sense to ask the question if she belongs to the US. She should try to belong to America, if she has decided to make that country her future destination, while seeking justice within the system there. However, if the murder has made her believe that migrating to the US was a wrong decision, she should zero in on the best place to live, which will definitely include returning to India.
Her husband’s murder is just the latest example of the increasing number of hate crimes that are being reported from all parts of the world. Many went unreported earlier, not that there were no hate crimes. The world, of course, is turning into a smaller place with common goals and has seen many more migrations from one part of the globe to another, resulting in more xenophobia related crimes.
However, it would be foolish to say that discrimination and hate is confined to America or India. It is there in every place, where the human mind has not evolved. The effective fight against discrimination, hence, would involve going to the roots of the problem. And that happens to be in our homes, not the Ministry of Home Affairs.
( firstname.lastname@example.org)(Published on 06th March 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 10)#