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Silent Jindal jolts university
- Governor sticks to policy of Indians at arm’s length

Washington, Dec. 17: The bodies of the two Indian students murdered on the Louisiana State University (LSU) campus last week are expected to be repatriated to Hyderabad on Tuesday or Wednesday, notwithstanding a complete lack of support in the case by the incoming state administration headed by Indian-American Bobby Jindal.

Three-and-a-half days after the bodies of Komma Chandrasekhar Reddy and Allam Kiran Kumar were discovered in Reddy’s campus apartment, till the time of writing, Jindal has not issued a statement condoling the deaths or nudging investigators into action to solve the case.

This is despite the fact that Jindal campaigned against crime as the number one issue for his election as governor in October and devotes several pages of his transition site to this problem in Louisiana.

LSU officials privately express disappointment that the incoming governor has not telephoned the university’s chancellor or any other official to express support for the institution at a time when it is receiving bad publicity in the US and abroad.

For many officials, this is particularly galling because until now they considered Jindal as one of them after he served as president of the University of Louisiana System for two years from 1999, overseeing the education of 80,000 students a year.

Besides, the incoming governor’s transition offices are within sight of the Edward Gay Apartments, where Reddy and Kiran were murdered.

Jindal’s indifference to the crime in his virtual backyard is in line with his policy, ever since he entered public life, of deliberately distancing himself from India and Indian American issues.

Right from the very first reception by Indian Americans in his honour on Capitol Hill after he was elected as a US Congressman in 2004, Jindal has made it clear that he considers his brown complexion merely as an accident of his birth. Jindal’s attitude, Indian Americans here recall, is in marked contrast to the attitude of another US state governor, Virginia’s Tim Kaine.

In April this year, after a shooting on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Kaine cut short a trip to Japan, cancelled an imminent visit to India and declared a “state of emergency”, enabling him to immediately deploy state personnel, equipment and other resources for investigations.

Jindal, though he is still governor-elect, could have called for at least a fraction of similar action because crime is a problem that is eating into the innards of Louisiana’s social life.

Although 32 students were killed in Virginia, Kaine, unlike Jindal, took great care to be solicitous about the victims of Indian origin at Virginia Tech and their families.

When relatives of murdered and injured Indians arrived in Washington from abroad, Kaine spurned offers from the Indian embassy here to transport them by limousine to Blacksburg.

Instead, he sent a plane to take them to Virginia Tech and housed several of them during their traumatic days through the autopsies and funerals.

It is not as if Jindal has been sleeping at the wheel in the three days after Reddy and Kiran were killed.

During the weekend, Jindal announced that he had collected nearly $1.4 million from 236 individual and corporate donors for celebrations planned around his swearing in as governor on January 14.

Yesterday, his transition team announced an inaugural ball to celebrate the swearing-in. It will be preceded by a luncheon for state legislators, an inaugural family festival in the afternoon and a prayer service, the governor-elect’s spokesperson Melissa Sellers was quoted in the Louisiana media as saying.

Unlike Jindal, LSU authorities, after their initial insensitivity in announcing that the campus murders had provided an “opportunity” for the university to test its new emergency text-message system, have been extremely helpful and sympathetic, according to Indian students on the campus.

Meanwhile, Indian officials Alok Pandey and K.P. Pillai helped speed up the procedures associated with autopsy and embalming of the dead bodies, which normally take much longer in murder cases here.

The two officials have been asked to stay put in Baton Rouge and be available round the clock to relatives of the crime victims and other Indian students.

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