HYDERABAD, India — Hundreds of mourning relatives joined government ministers Tuesday at funeral rites for an Indian engineer killed in Kansas by a gunman allegedly spewing racial epithets.
The somber gathering in southern India — nearly a week after the shooting — took on political overtones in response to a perceived anti-foreigner wave in the United States linked to President Trump’s “America first” policies. The FBI announced Tuesday that it is investigating the shooting as “a hate crime,” which could lead to federal prosecution in addition to state murder charges.
The mother of the slain engineer begged her other son not to return to the United States, and two politicians turned up with signs that said “Down with Trump” and “Xenophobia in any form is unacceptable.”
Before the cremation, the family washed and prepared the body of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, outside their home in a gated community near Hyderabad called Bachupally. The victim’s wife, Sunayana Dumala, and his mother wept, and the older woman had to be revived after fainting.
She said she feared letting her other son, Sai Kiran, return to the United States, where he also lives.
“I will not allow him to go back. I don’t want to lose another son,” wailed the mother, Parvatha Vardhini. A truck carried the body to the cremation ground 23 miles away, where more than 200 mourners had gathered.
Family members held aloft the bier, which was covered with roses.
A decade-long resident of the United States who worked at the aviation systems department of the Garmin technology firm, Kuchibhotla was fatally shot last Wednesday by a man who allegedly later said he believed that Kuchibhotla and an Indian co-worker were of Middle Eastern descent.
Kuchibhotla and his friend Alok Madasani, 32, were in the crowded Austins Bar and Grill watching a basketball game when a man, described as inebriated, opened fire on them. Madasani was wounded, as was an American patron who attempted to intervene. Police later arrested Adam W. Purinton, 51, and charged him with murder and attempted murder.
The family members gathered at the parents’ home to mourn Kuchibhotla and expressed fear over the fate of other Indians living in the United States.
Some Indians here have linked what they see as a rise of racism in the United States to Trump’s election. “We are all middle-class and lower-middle-class people, and we send our children abroad with hope,” said M. Rajkumar, president of an association for parents of Indians living abroad. “Many of our young prefer to go to America for higher education. . . . Now the situation has changed after Trump has become president of the United States. Racism is high, and this incident is a clear example.”
Trump, addressing a joint session of Congress on Tuesday evening, said such attacks “remind 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.” Earlier in the day, the White House gave its first direct comment on the Kansas attack, calling it “an act of racially motivated hatred.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters that “the president condemns these or any other racially or religiously motivated attacks in the strongest terms.”
Kuchibhotla earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at El Paso in 2007 before becoming a software engineer at Rockwell Collins in Iowa, said his brother, Kiran. In 2014 he moved to Garmin, which is based in Olathe, Kan.
“The entire family was happy that both Srinivas and his wife . . . were doing well in the U.S., and after six years of marriage they were planning to have a baby this year,” Kiran said. “And all of a sudden this happened — we are shattered.”
The body arrived late Monday at the Hyderabad airport, where it was received by several officials from the local states, as well as lawmakers.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which runs the national government, has said that the safety of Indians residing in the United States will be raised with the U.S. government.
“We express our anguish and grief over the unfortunate incident in which a great, hard-
working, committed young man lost his life,” said the party’s general secretary, Muralidhar Rao. “People working in America are apprehensive about their security.”
Some 300,000 Indians work in the United States on special H-1B visas, largely in the software and tech industries. The Trump administration has talked about limiting the program.
Schemm reported from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Annie Gowen in New Delhi contributed to this report.