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HindustanTimes Wed,17 Sep 2014

Dispatches from USA

Indian blood on American campus
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri
New York City, April 17, 2007
First Published: 22:23 IST(17/4/2007)
Last Updated: 04:08 IST(18/4/2007)

Two people of Indian origin were among the 33 killed during the Virginia Tech massacre, the worst campus killing in US history. One of them, G.V. Loganathan, 51, was a professor of environmental engineering who was shot dead while teaching a class. The other, still to be officially confirmed, is a female graduate student from Mumbai, Minal Panchal.

Both of them were at Norris Hall, the site where most of the deaths took place.

The gunman has been identified as Cho Seung-Hui, 23, a South Korean green-card holder to the US who was studying English at the university. A love motive is presumed, as one of the first victims was his girlfriend. Cho shot himself dead after the police began to close in on him. A hate-filled note denouncing “rich kids” and “debauchery” has since been found in his dorm room.

Loganathan, a Madras University and IIT Kanpur graduate, came to Virginia Tech in 1982. Web ratings by Virginia Tech students gave him consistent scores of 4.5 out of 5 or above. His wife and two daughters, who were unhurt, lived on campus.

Panchal was a member of the US National Honour Society for aerospace engineering, Sigma Gamma Tau, and had graduated from Central Florida University.

Police confirmed only one Glock pistol was used in the killings, refuting earlier stories of two gunmen. Cho shot two people in a dorm room before moving to Norris Hall, where he went from class to class shooting students and professors. Most of the bodies were found in four classes and one stairwell. Cho locked the doors of the building to stop people from escaping.

One professor, Israeli Liviu Librescu, 72, held the door shut while his students jumped from the class windows. Cho shot him dead, firing through the door.

Indian student Chinmay Bhamne, who was in the building next to Norris Hall, said: “Security issued a warning, but since the university had already had two false bomb threats in recent weeks, we didn’t take it seriously.” Later, he found the grounds swarming with the police. “It was like a movie scene. Cops behind trees, cars, buildings.”

He said the 700-strong Indian student community had shown great solidarity during the crisis. "All of us are here right now in one hall," he said on Tuesday. That sense of togetherness will be needed. The university is to shut down for a week. "The locals will go home, but the international students will be the only ones left here," said Bhamne.

The Indian embassy in Washingtonsaid it had dispatched consular officials to Virginia, to provide assistance. "If a body has to be brought back, there are certain things only the MEA can do," a foreign ministry official in New Delhi said. "But the decision on whether a body is brought back or the family travels to the US and where the funeral will be held depends on the family.”

The South Korean embassy in the US warned its missions to watch out for any backlash, though most commentators thought this unlikely.


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