NEW DELHI — Anupam Singh, a master’s student, once dreamed of coming to the United States for his PhD studies. But Wednesday’s seemingly racially charged shooting of two Indian men in Kansas reaffirmed his growing belief that the United States isn’t a hospitable place for foreign students.
“I would be scared to study in the U.S.,” he said Saturday outside a tea stall on the campus of the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi. “Did you read the newspapers yesterday? Two Indians were shot.”
A Navy veteran who had allegedly been intoxicated was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of two Indian software engineers in a crowded bar in Olathe, Kan., Wednesday evening. The assailant reportedly shouted, “Get out of my country!” One man died, and the second was injured. A patron who intervened was also hurt.
The possible hate crime has prompted anger in India and concern that the Trump-era United States is no longer a safe place for its thriving community of visiting Indian students, scholars and tech workers. The father of Alok Madasani, the Indian injured in the attack, appealed Friday from the Indian city of Hyderabad to “all the parents in India” not to send their children to the United States under “present circumstances.”
On a sunny day at one of India’s most prestigious science and technology campuses, the effects of Wednesday’s violence were keenly felt.
Graduate students said they were changing their postgraduate plans from the United States to universities in Canada or Australia. Others were fielding telephone calls from anxious parents.
And parents who brought younger students to a Rubik’s Cube competition said they hoped the situation was temporary, because studying abroad in the United States remains the goal for many of the country’s brightest students.
The number of international students at U.S. universities topped 1 million last year, according to government data, with the number of Indians up 14 percent, to 206,584.
“I used to think of America as a place where there is greater racial equality than exists in India,” said Dhriti Ahluwalia, 26, a master’s student who wants to attend a public policy program in the United States. “Now people are afraid. There is inequality. There is racism.”
Concern over the troubled U.S. political climate, beginning with its rhetoric-charged presidential campaign, has reverberated through India’s thriving industry for test preparation and admissions coaching, which prepares students for study abroad.
“Everybody is asking me whether they should go or not, whether they should look at U.S. schools or not,” said Kavita Singh, who runs the college admissions counseling service FutureWorks Consulting in New Delhi. Many of her students will want to apply to “elite schools on the coasts, in blue states,” she said, adding that they don’t want to look at schools “in the middle of the country, the red states, anymore.”
Some have siblings and friends already in the United States who have stoked these concerns with talk of racially motivated incidents on college campuses after Donald Trump was elected president in November, she said.
Singh said it is too early to know the effect on the number of students studying in the United States.
But a study before the election by two companies that recruit international students found that 60 percent of 40,000 students surveyed in 118 countries would be less inclined to come to the United States if Trump won, compared with 3.8 percent who would be less inclined if Hillary Clinton won.
And that was before Trump’s travel ban threw immigration into chaos and ensnared students and scholars from some of the seven affected countries in its net. Indians said they are uneasy about possible future limitations on student permissions as well as H-1B visas, the foreign visas for highly skilled workers. The software engineers in the Kansas shooting — Madasani and Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32 — were admitted to work for a global tech company on H-1B visas after completing graduate studies in the United States.
“Right now, everyone’s nervous,” said Tasaduq Hussain, a PhD scholar in electrical engineering who said he still hopes to do postdoctoral work in the United States. He was more concerned about visa limits than his safety: “The United States is a big country, and there will be stray incidents,” he said.
“I don’t think the American people are anti-Muslim,” he added.
Singh, the mathematics student and aspiring PhD candidate, has interviewed at U.S. colleges. He applied to the University of Missouri in 2015 but was rejected. He’s trying again but only at schools in Europe and Australia.
“The decision not to go to the U.S. did not happen instantly,” he said. “I just kept hearing about incidents that people were leaving and being thrown out. So I thought, ‘I don’t want to go to that country.’ ”
“If Hillary Clinton was elected, then I would have gone,” he added. “There would still have been racism in the U.S., but it would not have been so much. As much as it is with Trump.”
Swati Gupta contributed to this report.