NEW YORK: Mourning the killing of Abhijit Mahato, an Indian doctoral student at Duke University, its president has attributed the killing of the Jamshedpur student to the "larger issue" of the recent crime wave in the university town of Durham, North Carolina.
Referring to the slaying Friday of Mahato, a Ph.D. student at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering, and Sunday's robberies involving a student and an employee of Duke, Richard Brodhead said in his address on Monday to the Duke community: "We have learned from Durham police that there has been a spike in armed robberies throughout Durham in recent weeks. This means that recent assaults on Duke graduate students are part of a larger issue".
He stated that city authorities have assured him that they will make "every effort to investigate and resolve these issues" and announced increasing police patrols in select areas near the campus.
Expressing his sadness at Mahato's death, the Duke president said: "Having spoken with Prof. Tod Laursen, in whose lab Abhijit was making important contributions, I have a sense of his great promise and endearing character. I extend my sympathy to Abhijit's friends and colleagues and to all members of the Indian and Hindu community for this appalling loss."
Brodhead announced a commemoration of Mahato's life at the university chapel later this week and said the university was providing counselling to those who needed assistance, particularly the international students.
He said he met the Indian embassy's representatives "to express our grief and concern for Abhijit's friends and family in India".
Alok Pandey, senior of the two embassy representatives sent to Duke, said that the funeral home where Mahato's body was kept had made arrangements Wednesday afternoon for the visit of his friends and others to pay their respects.
The Indian embassy team also met the Durham mayor William Bell as well as the Durham and Duke police officials.
"We requested all concerned to expedite the release of Mahato's body and impressed on the authorities the need to apprehend and punish the culprit," Pandey said.
The police, he said, were working on all angles related to Mahato's murder. "They are first trying to determine why it happened, which will lead them to who did it," he added.
The person authorised by Mahato's family to oversee arrangements for sending his body to India, Aniburan Dutta, graduate student at Michigan University, has also reached Durham.
Mahato's family lives in Jharkhand where his grandfather Dhananjay Mahato is a former legislator. Mahato did his Bachelor in Engineering (BE) from Jadavpur University in Kolkata and M. Tech. from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur.
He worked at GE Global Research Centre in Bangalore for two years before joining Duke about two years ago.
His body was found riddled with bullets in his apartment near the campus at Duke.