"The only motive behind the killing an Indian doctoral student at an
engineering college in North Carolina could be robbery, campus
authorities suspect. 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 on Friday in a pool of blood at his home in an apartment complex
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 on 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 on Monday two officers,
Sanjay Sinha and Alok Pandey, to meet the university president,
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 are 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."
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