Sharath Koppu, 25, who was pursuing a master’s in software engineering at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, hailed from the so-called ‘cyber city’ of Hyderabad in southern India. The graduate student was working part-time at J’s Fish and Chicken Market when he was shot in the back by an unidentified man in what is presumed to be an attempted robbery.
“He had the same dreams…to make it big in the land of opportunity”
A suspect has since been killed in what local police described as an exchange of gunfire. Three police officers were also injured.
The news of the shooting was covered by the Indian media and generated a quick response from both local politicians and the minister of External Affairs, who promised to bring the body back at the earliest possible time and provide all help to the grieving family.
The body was returned to India on 12 July.
MyNation.com tweeted: “He went with big dreams to Kansas but returned in a coffin to Hyderabad.”
The Times of India asked: “How does a visitor from another country find his way in a country where he cannot speak English?” and goes on to explain that Koppu “was precisely working on making life easy for people from other countries in the US” through an app that he had designed to read English signs and translate them into many other languages.
Scroll.in made Koppu’s assignments uploaded on YouTube available to its readers, highlighting that days before his tragic death he was involved in “elaborate software development projects”.
The Indian Express quoted Koppu’s cousin, from a GoFundMe account that he started to pay for the repatriation of the body to India.
“He had the same dreams as everyone else: to make it big in the land of opportunity. He had a great sense of humour and always made people laugh and was always eager to lend a helping hand,” Koppu wrote.
The position of the US as a dream destination for Indian students – especially those more technically inclined who are hoping to make significant contributions to Silicon Valley – is clear.
“He went with big dreams but returned in a coffin”
And yet this tribute serves as a reality check, implying that a nightmare can befall students too. One publication, Qrius (formerly the Indian Economist), went as far as calling Koppu an “another unwitting martyr to racism in America” and asking “if there is an end to this meaningless violence?”
Koppu’s murder brought back memories of another tragic murder of a Hyderbad techie in Kansas City last year that most major newspaper were quick to point out. Srinivas Kuchibotla, 32, was shot dead in a hate crime after coming to the US as a student before graduating and working as an engineer.
A former US Navy seal, Adam W. Puritan fired at Kuchibotla and his colleague Alok Madasani after throwing racist slurs at them before pulling the trigger. He was sentenced to life in prison.
According to the Hindustan Times, concerns were raised in India that Koppu’s murder was also motivated by hate.
The News Minute also highlighted the murder of another techie, Vamshi Reddy Mamidala, 27, was also shot dead in Milpitas, California last year on February 10 near his apartment, in what was also suspected to be random firing by a drug addict who had just committed a robbery. A 30-year-old man was later charged.
While all these shootings may be isolated incidents, seen together in the Indian media, they could be seen to paint a grim picture of the US as a destination for Indian students.