US offers welcoming environment to Indian students: Indian-American academician

Indian Embassy and all consulates have put up guidelines on their websites for Indian students.

Washington: The US continues to offer a welcoming environment to students from India, an eminent Indian-American academician said Monday amid reports of deaths of 11 students from India or of Indian origin this year, a development that has caused concerns among the community and their parents in India.

While no pattern has been established yet on these deaths, the Indian diplomatic missions here has proactively started engaging with the Indian students. This includes regular open house, interaction with students’ associations, coming up with updated guidelines for the students.

“It’s unfortunate this year that these incidents have happened … and there’s been this surge. So, parents are rightfully concerned. I mean, if I were a parent and my child was in another country where I see a certain spike, I would definitely be concerned about that. But from what I see is that I have not seen any underlying issue of any kind that suddenly there is no reason for any hate crime to happen,” Gurdip Singh, Divisional Dean, School of Computing at the George Mason University in Virginia told PTI in an interview.

MS Education Academy

“I would have been more concerned if it was a particular university where three or four incidents happened in succession, then that would sort of depict a pattern. But at least to my knowledge, I don’t see any underlying cause for hate crime or anything against Indian students in US,” Singh said.

Singh said Indian students in US need to be more careful and vigilant about such incidents.

Highlighting that the location of the universities is also important, some neighbourhoods or some places are more prone just because the crime rate in those places are higher compared to the others.

“As in any country, there are certain cities where you are going to be, or certain parts of the cities where there are going to be more, the crime rate is going to be higher as compared to the others. So there are majority of the campuses, at least fortunately in the U.S., are university towns, which happen to be very safe,” Singh said.

As per the Open Doors report of the Institute of International Education, the number of Indian students in the US has almost tripled from 1,32,888 in 2014-2015 to 3,53,803 in 2024.

The Indian Embassy here is working with various universities to set a network of Indian-origin professors on campuses with a substantial Indian student community. This is being set up on a voluntary basis to respond to any urgent situation.

Maybe there is an extra level of anxiety among students as the job market is not as great as previous year, Singh said.

“If there is more anxiety, it is because the job market or the economy is not doing as well as one would as in the previous years,” he said.

Reiterating that the US is a very welcoming country and that there are a lot of opportunities here, Singh said his message to students is for them to stay focused and to be patient and be consistent in their efforts. “My message to them, it’s unfortunate that these things have happened, these incidents have happened, but at least In the past month or so, I haven’t heard from them again. So hopefully that’s behind us,” Singh said.

Utsav Chakraborty, executive director of nonprofit HinduAction expressed concern over the deaths of 11 Indian students in the US this year.

“In the past couple of months, we have already had 11 cases. What I would expect we and the FBI as well as the Justice Department to do is to focus on the pattern of deaths and investigate what are the causes and see if there is any connection between these deaths,” he said.

“We as a community are really concerned and this is something that hasn’t happened in the past and therefore a more detailed scrutiny of these deaths need to be addressed. I think as American Hindus we hope that there is no pattern that emerges and this is not something that we are afraid of and is part of a larger campaign against Hindus in America,’ Chakravarty told PTI.

Noting that there has been a rise in anti-Hindu hate across the country, he said there have been some cases where students in campuses have been harassed, adding that mental health is very crucial for young people.

“And people who are foreign nationals, students coming to America far away from their home, [they] already have a lot of mental stress they go through. So, if they are harassed as Indian-Americans or as Hindus in America in campuses it may lead to causes of death or injuries and in some cases there have been a couple of murders as well. So, it bothers us and as Hindu Action we hope that there is more scrutiny on these deaths,” he said.

A data analytics team from Caste Gate, in a statement, said that there is a disturbing trend of escalating student deaths. “Within a mere three-week period, from January 15 to February 5, seven students of Indian-origin tragically lost their lives under mysterious circumstances in the US,” it said.

The Indian Embassy and all six consulates in the United States have interacted with student associations from time to time through regular open houses.

The Indian Embassy and all consulates have put up guidelines on their websites for Indian students on precautions to be observed regarding the pre-arrival formalities and during their stay in the US.

These are widely shared with Indian student associations through the mission’s outreach. An informative video related to these aspects has also been put up on the embassy website.

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