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Slain techie Kuchibhotla’s widow to attend Trump’s State of the Union address

Sunayana Dumala will be a guest of Representative Kevin Yoder, a Republican who has emerged as a leading advocate of Indian techies on H-1B struggling to navigate Trump administration’s war on legal and illegal immigration

world Updated: Jan 11, 2018 22:34 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Srinivas Kuchibhotla,Kansas Shooting,Sunayana Dumala
Sunayana Dumala, left, talks about her late husband, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, during a news conference at Garmin Headquarters in Olathe, Kansas, February 24, 2017. (AP File Photo)

President Donald Trump began his maiden State of the Union address, around this time in 2017, condemning the killing of Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Kansas by a man who had yelled at the Indian IT engineer to go back to his country.

This year, Kuchibhotla’s widow, Sunayana Dumala, will be in the visitors’ gallery of the House of Representatives watching President Trump as he delivers his second State of the Union speech later this month.

Dumala will be a guest of Representative Kevin Yoder, her area Congressman, a Republican , whose office confirmed the invitation and her acceptance on Wednesday, but has not responded yet to a request for comments about his reasons for inviting her.

“The shooter’s bullet destroyed her husband and broke her so deeply that we had to ... show him that he didn’t break our community,” the congressman said to Kansas City Star, a local news publication.

“We had to let the world know that Kansas City, Kansas and America are welcome to immigrants.”

Yoder, who is a member of the House India Caucus, has emerged as a leading advocate of Indian techies on H-1B struggling to navigate Trump administration’s war on legal and illegal immigration. He was the only Republican to come out in opposition, for instance, to the administration’s now-junked proposal to end H-1B visa extensions, a draconian measure that could have led to mass deportation of Indians.

Dumala spoke to the Star for an article about a year since the tragedy, but did not talk about her upcoming visit to the US Congress.

She had not responded to an emailed request for comments at the time of writing this report.

Kuchibhotla, an avionics engineer with GPS major Garmin, was fatally shot by Adam Purinton, a US navy veteran, at a bar in Olathe, Kansas on February 22, 2017 in an incident that sent shockwaves across the United States, India and beyond.

The assailant, who had told Kuchibhotla and his friend Alok Madasani at the time of the attack to “go back your country”, had also shot Ian Grillot, a white male who tried to intervene, wounding him grievously.

The shooting was blamed on a surge in xenophobia and Islamophobia — Purinton had allegedly mistaken Kuchibhotla and Madasani for West Asians — following Trump’s upset victory in a bitterly contested election in which he was widely seen as pandering to elements on the extreme right, and every imaginable bigotry they stood for.

In the aftermath of the shooting, prominent Indian Democrat Shekar Narasimhan had said that the president had blood on his hands.

The Trump administration was slow to condemn the incident, with then press secretary, Sean Spicer, choosing to focus instead on distancing the White House from it, angrily.

A day later, Spicer’s deputy Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who is now press secretary, delivered the much-needed unequivocal denunciation: “As more facts come to light and it begins to look like this was an act of racially motivated hatred. I want to reiterate the President condemns these or any other racially or religiously motivated attacks in the strongest terms. They have no place in our country.”

A few hours later, beginning his first State of the Union speech, Trump said: “Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.”

What will he say this time with Sunayana Dumala looking on?

First Published: Jan 11, 2018 09:22 IST