India should not apologise for UCLA shooter Mainak Sarkar

Sonia Chopra
Sonia ChopraJun 04, 2016 | 13:42

India should not apologise for UCLA shooter Mainak Sarkar

Shootings in schools, colleges, churches and offices in the United States are so routine now - that few were surprised when the news broke about the incident at University of California, Los Angeles - in which a gunman opened fire in a murder-suicide on the campus, causing it to lockdown.

But most were startled to hear that the shooter was an Indian. Mainak Sarkar, a 38-year-old Bengali American scientist was a  former UCLA doctorate student who received his PhD in mechanical engineering in 2013. He became a green card holder a year later.


He hadn’t been on the campus for a while now and law enforcement sources said that on June 3, Sarkar drove from Minnesota after he murdered his ex-wife Ashley Hasti at her home and killed his former graduate mentor, professor William Klug, at his office before he took his own life.

After the shooting at UCLA.

The police also said that that they believe that Sarkar had legally purchased both the guns and at least one was registered to him. Ballistic reports show that the same gun killed Hasti and Klug. They found Sarkar’s car with a bizarre note requesting that his cat be checked on in his Minnesota apartment.

They also found a “kill list” in his apartment with three names, but the third person, another professor he intended to murder was not on the UCLA campus on that day. The campus was locked down for hours.

Indians will understand the fright, the panic and the stress they experience in anticipation of communal riots when disputes break out between Hindus and Muslims.

They fear being attacked over their religion and even though, riots do not break out in America, minority populations do tend worry when crimes are committed by people of colour.


We worry about becoming the targets of hate by ignorant people who group all people of colour together. We fear the retaliation in some form.

I felt unease, despair and concern as the news flared on social media. With growing alarm, I watched the racist tweets roll in. Sarkar was called a Muslim, a terrorist and his actions were proof positive that “third worlders shouldn’t be allowed in advanced societies”.

They are demanding that "Indians" issue an apology. While there is no way of excusing murder, I think it is absolutely ludicrous that Indian Americans should address the issue.

Did everyone in of Caucasian descent feel it necessary to say sorry for Adam Lanza who killed preschoolers in Connecticut or Dylann Roof who gunned down church goers in South Carolina? Or James Homes who gunned down theatre goers in Colorado?

It’s regressive, racist and wrong to assume that we are responsible for the actions of “one of our own”. We feel the pain and the sorrow of the tragedy but we should not be shamed.

The hatred, the loathing and the suspicion that accompany each incident in which the suspect is a "person of colour" is difficult for us to swallow because we are not guilty. We are not complicit. We have done nothing wrong.


Sarkar’s actions should not embarrass the thousands of international and local Asian students. They should not be self-conscious when they hear about the "psycho” Indian student.

Police are releasing little information about the suspect and mental illness is the explanation that the campus and the authorities are offering as a possible motive in his actions.

They refuse to comment further on a phone call made by this correspondent and the incident reports are not in public domain yet.

Social media backs up the fact that Sarkar was losing it in recent months. He broke with his wife and he posted in a blog, accusations against Klug of having stolen his computer code. UCLA says that the accusation is unfounded and completely false.

I think it’s important to be blunt in exposing Sarkar, who is an aberration among high achieving Indians. It took the former Indian Institute of Kharagpur student seven long years to finish his doctorate.

He had exactly one article with Klug in a publication and he is not the main contributor. He was fired from his job in an Ohio based materials company two years ago.

And he was deeply disturbed.

He is not a typical Indian. He does not represent us. We are not responsible for his actions and we do not need to apologize for this murderer who deserves our condemnation.

Nobody knows for sure how much damage it will do to Indian students who are among the prominent in campuses.

For example, UCLA is one of the most racially diverse campuses in the United States and it has the largest Asian American Studies departments. One third of its undergraduates say they are Asian Americans.

On mass shootings, the violence on the UCLA campus was the 186th school shooting since the Connecticut incident in 2012.

This past weekend, more than 60 people died of gun violence in Chicago but frankly, the gorilla being shot dead in a Cincinnati zoo made more headlines than their deaths.

Every single shooting in America plays out with almost the exact sickening script with the same gruesome details of violence, horror and tragedy. 

The crime is usually committed by a person who has made the decision that his personal and private pain is much more important than the lives of others.

Then the police and ambulance personnel arrive, there is an outpouring of grief and support, there are candle light vigils and funerals, media coverage and lots of declarations of how this won’t happen again and then the nation moves on.

Until the next mass shooting.

Last updated: June 04, 2016 | 13:51
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