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'It's sad a liberal man was killed because of his looks'

Last updated on: December 31, 2012 11:02 IST

'It's sad a liberal man was killed because of his looks'

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Suman Guha Mozumder speaks to friends of New York hate crime victim Sunondo Sen, who was last week pushed in front of a subway train by a woman who hates Muslims and Hindus.

Sunondo Sen, who was killed in New York last week after being pushed in front of subway train by a woman who, by her own admission, hates Muslims and Hindus, was a truly secular-minded person who did not differentiate between people on the basis of their faith or religion.

"I have not met with such a great person in my life. Just to give you an example, Dada (Sen) would wait outside my room patiently if he found out that I was saying namaz at that point of time. This was out of sheer respect for a person belonging to another religious faith. He had so much respect for all people. I still remember dada would always tell me that people all over the world are fighting in the name of religion, but true religion never teaches one to fight against a fellow human being," A R Suman, a native of Bangladesh, who shared one of the two rooms with Sen in an apartment in Elmhurst, told this correspondent.

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Image: Sunondo Sen
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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US hate crime victim Sunando Sen's cremation today

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A prayer and memorial was organised Sunday for the 46-year-old Kolkata native at Coppola Migliore Funeral Home, Queens New York. Over 100 people from New York and New Jersey, including two distant cousins of Sen who had not known him but came to know of his death from newspapers, attended the service conducted by a Hindu priest.

Besides Bangladeshi Hindus and Muslims, Indian Americans also attended the prayer. People lit up candles and burnt incense sticks in front of Sen's photo as the priest chanted slokas from the Bhagvad Gita.

Initially, the New York Indian consulate was exploring the idea of sending Sen's body to Kolkata, but could not do so as Sen's parents have died long ago and he has no siblings, neither any close relative in India.

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Image: A prayer service for Sunando Sen at Coppola Migliore Funeral Home, Queens, New York
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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'We feel like we have lost a family member'

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Bidyut Sarker, who knew Sen well and had employed him for the past 15 years in his copying and printing business in Manhattan, organised the prayer/memorial. Although Sarkar is a Bangladeshi native, Sen was very close to him and was almost like his family member.

Although Sen was a very introvert kind of person, he was extremely intelligent and talented. Above all, he was polite to the fault. "In his unfortunate death, we feel like we have lost a family member," Sarkar told Rediff.com.

By the accounts of his friends and acquaintances Sen was academically a brilliant person, who had his schooling in Jadavapur in Kolkata and did his bachelor's degree from Jadavpur Univesity where his father was a superintendent of students' dorm. He passed out of New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University in the late 1980s with a first class masters degree in economics. He stood second in his class.

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Image: Bidyut Sarkar, at whose printing press Sen worked for many years, at the prayer service
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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'A self-motivated person'

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Sen got a scholarship to come and do his MS in economics from New York University. After grad school he got enrolled for a PhD program in Columbia. But halfway through he had to give up because he did not have any financial support.

And since then began his struggle to survive and to establish himself in the US. "He was a self-motivated person and would learn things by studying. For example, although he did not have any background in computer, he studied the subject on his own and learnt programming and graphic designing. So much was his interest in any area of study that he would wake up till 3 in the morning to read," Sarkar said.

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Image: Sohinee Chatterjee and Lopamudra Ghosh, Sen's two cousins from New Jersey, pay their respects
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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'He had no religious bigotry'

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Another person, Ajoy Ghosh, a medical doctor from Bangladesh, who migrated to India and had lived with Sen in New York, testified to Sen's interest in books and things intellectual. "He was a very academic kind of person. He had interest in all kinds of subjects. He gave me 16 cases of books to keep when I moved out of the Elmhurst apartment building that I used to share with him. He was so much into books!" Ghosh who works in a Quens hospital, said.

Dwijen Bhattacharya, a professor at Columbia, who has known him for many years and is involved with human rights issues in Bangladesh, said that Sen also helped him with work relating to human rights and would extend his helping hands without any remuneration in terms of producing and publishing literature on rights issues. "He was an unusually mind person. He had no religious bigotry and was a man of secular and liberal outlook. Honestly, he was a gentleman personified," Bhattacharya said.

Suman, who said he had not been sleeping for the past three days since Sen's killing, felt that the world today needs people like Sen and it is tragic that he had to go at the age of 46.

"I feel sad that a person who respected all religions and was so liberal in his outlook, was killed by someone who hated him just because of his looks or perceived him to be anti-America," Suman said.

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Image: Sen's close friend Francis Gupta with his wife at the prayer service
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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A hate crime

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Queens District Attorney Richard A Brown announced on Sunday the arrest of 31-year-old Queens woman Erika Menendez on charges of second-degree murder of Sen which has been designated as a hate crime.

The woman allegedly admitted pushing Sen because of hatred. Sen died of multiple trauma. "I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I've been beating them up," the DA's office quoted Menendez as telling the prosecutors.

The defendant is presently awaiting arraignment in Queens criminal court on a criminal complaint charging her with second-degree murder as a hate crime. If convicted, she faces a maximum of 25 years to life in prison.

 

 


Image: The station where Sen was pushed in front of an incoming train
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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