Robbery behind Indian student’s murder in US: varsity official

By Parveen Chopra, IANS

New York : The only motive behind the killing an Indian doctoral student at an engineering college in North Carolina could be robbery, campus authorities suspect.

Support TwoCircles

The body of Abhijeet Mahato, 29, an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur alumnus doing his second year Ph.D. at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering, Durham, was found Friday in a pool of blood at his home in an apartment complex off campus.

Mahato was a bachelor and lived with a roommate who is not a Duke student and who has been away travelling in India.

Mahato’s killing was reported by friends, including Sandeepa Dey, who is also pursuing a Ph.D. in biochemistry at Duke. They came by his apartment to check on him after his phone had stopped responding for a few hours.

The autopsy was completed Sunday and the body will be flown to India as desired by his family in Jharkhand’s Sereikela Kharsawa district. They have authorised a family friend – a professor at Michigan University – who will fly to Durham to do the needful.

The Indian embassy in Washington is flying out Monday two officers, Sanjay Sinha and Alok Pandey, to meet the university president, Richard Broadhed.

They will also meet investigators and render assistance required in flying the body to India, Rahul Chhabra, embassy spokesperson, told IANS.

The police have not come out with any theory on the motive or the suspected killers. They are treating the incident as a homicide and have determined the cause of death to be a gunshot wound.

But Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs at Duke, told IANS: “It appears to be a case of robbery.”

He ruled out other possible motives under the circumstances. “A sweet, incredibly intelligent Mahato had no enemies,” he said.

When told that in the absence of a possible motive, the Louisiana university double murder of Indian doctoral students last month was suspected to be a hate crime, Moneta said: “There is no basis for suspecting Mahato’s shooting to be a hate crime. There is no prejudice or history of targeting Indian students here.”

The North Carolina incident comes less than two months after two Indian scholars were shot dead in another US campus. Chandrasekhar Reddy Komma and Kiran Kumar Allam were killed in the Louisiana State University (LSU), Baton Rouge. In that case too, the police have yet to find a motive or arrest any suspects.

There is around 200 Indian students and faculty at Duke, Moneta said. With over 12,000 graduate and undergraduate students, Duke is one of the biggest campuses in the US as well as being one of the most racially and ethnically diverse, with 117 nationalities.

To reassure Mahato’s friends as well as Indian and other international students on campus on security, the university has started reaching out to them. It is offering counselling services and has begun considering appropriate ways of commemorating Mahato’s life.

Mahato was born in Jamshedpur and raised in Kolkata. He did his Bachelor in Engineering (BE) from Jadavpur University and M. Tech. from IIT Kanpur.

He worked at the GE Global Research Centre in Bangalore for two years before coming to the US.