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'We love peace': Hundreds march in support of Indian killed in Kansas shooting

By Seema Hakhu Kachru
February 27, 2017 13:17 IST

Hundreds of people in Kansas City joined a peace march and prayer vigil, celebrating the life of Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla cut short in a senseless triple shooting incident at a pub in an apparent hate crime.

IMAGE: People march before a vigil for Srinivas Kuchibhotla at a conference center in Olathe, Kansas. All photograph: Dave Kaup/Reuters

Marchers held pictures, banners and shouted, "We want peace"; "We love peace"; "Let us not leave our children"; "Unity is part of community, together we stand, divided we fall".

Many of them carried candles and signs reading, "We don't support politics of hate."

The march for peace and the prayer meeting was attended by friends of Srinivas. Alok Madasani, another Indian who was wounded in the shooting on Wednesday, was on his crutches.

The sisters of the third man, an American identified as Ian Grillot, injured that night when he intervened during the argument with the shooter, US Navy veteran Adam Purinton, Lt Governor Jeff Colyer, US Congressman Kevin Yoder, Olathe Mayor Mike Copeland, Olathe Police Chief Steven Menke, and other state officials also joined the march and the prayer meeting.

IMAGE: Representatives from five religions attend the vigil. 

The prayer was conducted by priests from various religions at the Hindu Temple and Cultural Centre, Kansas City.

Addressing the gathering, Alok remembered his nine years of friendship with Srinivas. "Srini was the kindest person you would meet, full of love, care and compassion for everyone. He never uttered a word of hatred, a simple gossip, or a careless comment. He would always make sure everyone is doing fine and taken good care."

Other friends who spoke there had similar words for Srinivas. They described him as a positive, warm, kind, caring, brilliant, well-mannered and an absolutely outstanding human being.

Srinivas, 32, was killed and Alok, of the same age, was injured at a city bar by the navy veteran screaming racial slurs and telling them to "get out of my country" and "terrorist" before he opened fire on them. He reportedly mistook them for immigrants from the Middle East. 

IMAGE: People display banners and appealed for peace. Photograph: text here.

The incident has led to fear among the minority Indian-American community, who feel being targeted by President Donald Trump's controversial plan to ban travellers from certain countries to realise his campaign pledge of putting "America first."

At a news conference two days ago, Srinivas's wife Sunayana Dumala asked the US government what it would do to stop hate crimes against minorities. She said reports of bias against minorities make them afraid and wonder whether "do we belong here".

Although Sunayana did not mention Trump by name, she did say, "Not everyone will be harmful to this country."

At the vigil, Mayor Copeland encouraged people to come together, saying, "One evil act does not divide a united community."

IMAGE: Alok Madasani, who was wounded in a shooting that killed Kuchibhotla, walks from the podium after speaking.

"We felt the fear, shared tears, felt pain, healing and outpouring of love and care at this moment from this community -- we stand together with the Indian-American community today and everyday, we will not let one act of evil separate us or divide us."

Police chief Menke assured everyone, saying "we are one and we stand as one. we are here to deplore. we assure everyone that we will do everything to bring justice to the victim and victims family in this case."

"I am here for many reason to share the sadness, to support the community and search for answers. Evil will never overwhelm goodness, love will conquer all, and power of goodness will always prevail."

Lieutenant Governor Colyer said, "We'll continue praying for the loved ones of Alok Madasani and Ian Grillot, and especially for the friends and family of Srinivas Kuchibhotla. We will overcome evil and move from darkness to light."

IMAGE: Kansas Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer, right, holds up his candle during the vigil

Reciting a prayer in Sanskrit that he learned recently, Colyer said "May we move from darkness to light, from death to eternal light. Evil does exist, we have seen it, but so does goodness and evil will be driven away."

Assuring the Indian-Americans at the gathering, he said, "We will overcome this stray incident and live as one big strong community and we will change the world."

There has been an outpouring of support and fundraisers have been held for the victims. Volunteers handed out candles as visitors stoically made their way into the temple.

IMAGE: Laura Grillot and her sister Maggie talk about their brother Ian Grillot, who was shot trying to stop the gunman who killed Kuchibhotla, during the vigil.

Less than a week after the tragedy, thousands of strangers from around the world have opened up their wallets to comfort the victims' families. Three separate GoFundMe accounts have between them raised more than USD 1 million in donations, which they pledge to help with the families' medical expenses.

Srinivas worked at GPS-maker Garmin headquarters in Olathe. Srinivas and his colleague Alok hailed from Hyderabad and Warangal respectively.

The 51-year-old navy veteran was charged Thursday with first-degree murder. He was also charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder in the shootings of Alok and Ian.

Seema Hakhu Kachru
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