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Home > News > Report

Another Indian student murdered in US

Arthur J Pais in New York | January 20, 2008 17:03 IST

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Abhijit Mahato, described by his friends as an outgoing graduate student who was seldom seen without a smile, was found shot and killed at an off-campus apartment complex on Friday night.

The 29-year-old PhD student in engineering lived about one and a half miles from the Duke University campus in Durham. Born in Tatanagar and raised in Kolkota he has been with Duke just for about two years.

"Even as the news is unfolding, with no details and suspects, we're shocked about the why, why, why of it," said Leela Prasad, Duke's associate professor of ethics and Indian religion. "Right after the LSU murders, this senseless attack is hard to digest."

Chandrasekhar Reddy Komma, 31, and Kiran Kumar Allam, 33, were shot in the head on December 13 in what police called a robbery at their home in an apartment complex on the edge of the Louisiana State University campus.

Soon after the killings, police released sketches of two black men seen in the apartment complex, but no arrests have been made.

A 22-year-old man Dallas Joseph Staden was charged recently with criminal mischief for providing intentionally wrong information on possible suspects including himself.

The Durham police department told the local media that it responded to a report of an injured man and found Mahato dead.

The local newspapers also said that Mahato's friends were worried when they had not seen or heard from him for hours and had contacted the police. The DPD has not determined a motive for the shooting, according to a university statement.

One of the elite schools in America, Duke, like several other distinguished universities including Yale, is situated not far from crime-filled neighborhoods and towns.

"Our research team was particularly close to Abhijit," Tod Laursen, his research supervisor and advisor at Duke, said in the statement.

"He was very well read in both poetry and literature, and enjoyed conversation with others about what they were reading," Laursen said.

Mahato shared his pride of his Bengali upbringing with visitors to his Web site.

"My upbringing was in Kolkata; the City of Joy, the city of intellectuals, and much much more," he wrote. "My native language is Bengali. We, Bengalis, have a very distinct and rich culture."

Mahato earned his mechanical engineering degree from Jadavpur University in 2001 and a master of technology degree from the Indian Institute for Technology in Kanpur in 2004. He was at the GE Global Research Center in Bangalore for two years before coming to Duke.

At the GE Global Research Center, he focused on finite element analysis, a computer-simulation technique used in engineering. The experience prepared him well for his graduate work, according to Laursen.

"We were working together on an industry-funded research project and Abhijit's prior industry experience helped him develop close working relationships with our partners," Laursen said in an interview. "He understood their needs as a business and was a pleasure to work with."

Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, said in a statement that counselling would be offered to students at the school, and Duke was reaching out Mahato's friends and family and to Indian and other international students at Duke.

"This is a tragic circumstance, and we are doing everything possible to assist those who may be affected by it," Moneta said, adding that students were informed of the incident via an e-mail early Saturday morning.