Cases of deaths of Indian students increasing in America, questions raised on universities : BBC Cases of deaths of Indian students increasing in America, questions raised on universities : BBC

Cases of deaths of Indian students increasing in America, questions raised on universities : BBC

Cases of deaths of Indian students increasing in America, questions raised on universities : BBC

His fellow student Amarnath Ghosh had died in February.

34 year old Amarnath was a classical dancer. Sushil still has not recovered from his death. The local police is investigating it as a case of murder.

Sushil says that he got the information about Amarnath's death from a friend living in India instead of the university.

"They told us after two days. Students here are not happy with this kind of reaction, they feel like no one cares about how Indians feel."

The university had said in its clarification that they can give information about the death of a student only after the police confirms the identity of the deceased.

The statement said that this process takes time. Besides, consent of the student's family is also taken.

Julie Flory, Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications at the University of Washington, calls this incident a 'tragedy'.

She says, "We shared the news with our community as soon as we could, knowing the wishes of people close to Amarnath."

The St. Louis Police Department says it "takes up to 48 hours, and in some cases, longer, to confirm the identity of the deceased."

So far this year, 11 Indians or students of Indian origin have died in America, Amarnath Ghosh is one of them. In such a situation, fear has arisen among the Indian community living here.

The reasons for the death of these people are being said to be different. Some died due to hypothermia and some due to gunshot.

Experts say that there is no clear connection between these deaths.

There is commotion in the campus after every death. Students are continuing their daily routine and studies amidst fear.

Sushil says, “We avoid going out after dark. We have identified the places which are unsafe in the evening. What more can we do?”

Like Sushil, there are many other people who complain that they do not get timely information about the deaths from the university but come to know about it from the Indian media and relatives.

Mohammed Abdul Arafat, 25, who studied at Cleveland State University, had been missing since March.

He was found dead this month. A student, who did not wish to be named, said that he and Arafat had enrolled in college together.

He came to know about Arafat's death through a WhatsApp message from his parents. “My parents reminded me to be careful,” he says.

In the year 2022-23, about 267,000 Indians took admission in American universities. This figure is expected to reach one million by the year 2030.

Rajika Bhandari, an education expert living in New York, says, "There is a great desire in India for an American degree, Indian families are attracted towards it."

Sangay Mishra, associate professor at Drew University in New Jersey, says there is no "clear pattern" of interrelated deaths in these deaths and one should not fall into the narrative that this is happening because they are Indians.

He says, "I have not found anything that suggests that this is happening due to racial animosity or that these are cases of attacks on the basis of race."

Parents of Indian students studying in American universities try to maintain regular contact with their children.

Meenu Awal, whose son studies at the University of Southern California, says, "When we sit in India and hear such news, we feel scared."

Awal says that she has told her son not to react even if a robbery happens.

She says, "I told him that in such a situation he should give cash or whatever and go from there."

Neetu Marda's daughter, a resident of Jaipur, studies in New York University. Neetu talks to her daughter every day and also keeps her friends' numbers with her.

“I have instructed him not to go out alone with strangers,” she says.

Anushka Madan and Ishika Gupta are co-presidents of the Association of South Asians at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

Both of them say that there are some rules and regulations related to safety, like not roaming alone in the campus at night.

"Boston is generally very safe, but now we are a little more cautious and keep an eye on our surroundings," says Ishika Gupta.

Along with physical security, universities are also aware of the psychological pressure on students.

Education expert Bhandari says, "It is clear that international students are facing mental health problems. This is due to immense financial pressure coupled with academic pressure, so that there is no negative impact on their visa status.

She further says, “When these students live thousands of miles away from their homes, it is a huge mental pressure.”

"International students go through a lot of stress when they leave their support system and move into a new culture," says Reena Arora-Sanchez, CSU's executive director of communications.

What kind of help do Indian students get?
The Indian Embassy in the US continues to issue guidelines for students on how to contact the Embassy. Apart from this, online and in-person sessions are also held from time to time.

Pratham Mehta is the President of India Club at Georgia Institute of Technology.

Pratham says that he has reached out to a large number of Indian students. There are many types of therapy services on campus. The club also helps students who feel unsafe to contact the Indian Embassy.

He says, "CSU provides an app service through which students can contact the police department, through which they also provide free safety escort service to the campus and surrounding areas where students live."

US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti had said in February, "We are committed to ensuring Indians that America is a safe and great place to study and live."

But recent deaths have drawn attention to this issue.

Education expert Bhandari says, "American universities know that there is a huge appetite among Indian students to study abroad, which is increasing."

“But it is also clear that there are serious concerns about security,” she says.

Despite the uncertainties, America remains a favorite destination for students.

Swaraj Jain, resident of Jaipur, is going to New York University in August this year. He is very excited and is also aware of the challenges.

"Everyone talks about violence and crime, I have to be cautious," he says.

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