Soon after the FBI released pictures of the Boston bombers, an Indian-American family already traumatised by a missing son, was swamped by a flood of hate mails.
Their missing son, Brown University philosophy undergrad Sunil Tripathi, was mistaken for the man being called Suspect No 2, now known to be Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Some people thought Sunil was the man in the picture. And they poured out their rage on a Facebook page run by the Tripathis to help the search for Sunil, last seen on March 16.
“It was outrageous, what they had to say,” said Akhil Tripathi, a Pennsylvania resident.
But the storm raged, forcing the Tripathis to pull down the page to weather it out. They have no idea who started it, and no one checked with them.
These messages were posted by no one the family knew — “rank strangers” — who said vile things, venting on the family their anger and frustration over the bombings. “We didn’t sleep all night,” said Akhil on Friday morning.
Their relatives in Kanpur, India, were equally taken aback as news channels began running the story about a missing Indian-American becoming the focus of the Boston manhunt. “You can imagine what toll this kind of goof-up would take on the family,” said Jaishri Shukla, Akhil’s sister.
The hate mails finally stopped when the FBI identified the Boston suspects by name. Many people have since written to apologise to the Tripathis. That’s been a relief. But only so, Sunil is still not home.