Indian students’ deaths in the US spark quest for answers

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Neel Acharya, 19, was found dead on Purdue University campus.

WASHINGTON, April 27: Jey Sushil, a student at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, is grappling with profound sadness following the death of his fellow student, Amarnath Ghosh, a 34-year-old classical dancer from India. Ghosh’s death, investigated by local police as a homicide case, has sent shockwaves through the university community.

Sushil recounts learning about Ghosh’s tragic demise through a friend in India before receiving official communication from the university. “They told us after two days. Students are not very happy with the overall response. It’s like, who cares about how Indians feel?” he laments.

Ghosh was fatally shot off-campus on a city street, prompting the university to clarify its protocol for communicating student deaths. According to the institution, it shares such news only after law enforcement confirms the identity, a process that can take time and requires consent from the student’s next of kin.

Julie Flory, Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications at Washington University in St. Louis, described Ghosh’s death as a “horrible tragedy” and emphasized that the university informed the community as soon as possible and in accordance with Ghosh’s family’s wishes.

The St. Louis Police Department stated that it typically takes 48 hours to establish the identity of the deceased, and in some cases, the process may take even longer.

Ghosh’s death adds to a concerning trend, with 11 Indian or Indian-origin students having died in the US this year alone, raising fears about personal safety within the community. The causes of these deaths have varied, from hypothermia to suicide to shootings, with experts cautioning against drawing a connection between unrelated incidents.

As the tragedies reverberate across campuses, students grapple with heightened fears while juggling academic demands. Safety precautions include avoiding going out after dark and identifying unsafe areas in the city.

Similar concerns extend to other universities, such as Cleveland State University (CSU), where 25-year-old Mohammad Abdul Arfath was found dead earlier this month after having gone missing in March. Students express frustration over delayed notifications of such incidents and often learn about them through Indian media or family members back home.

Despite these challenges, the allure of American education remains strong for Indian students, with nearly 267,000 enrolled in US universities in the 2022-23 academic year, a number projected to reach a million by 2030. However, concerns about personal safety persist, prompting universities to bolster support services and emphasize security measures.

While uncertainties loom, students like Swaraj Jain from Jaipur remain undeterred in their pursuit of education abroad, albeit with a heightened awareness of the challenges ahead. “Everyone talks about gun violence and crime. I will have to be careful,” he acknowledges.

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