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  • Writer's pictureAnu Peshawaria

Sugar Land murder-suicide once again highlights domestic violence among Indian Americans

Updated: Jan 17, 2022

The homicide, second involving Indian American couples in two months, illustrates the dangers of domestic violence incidents going unreported and unaddressed.

The murder of 46-year-old Shanti Nakirekanti in Sugar Land, Texas, on Monday morning, apparently by her husband, Sreenivas Nakirekanti, who turned the gun on himself after killing his wife, has once again highlighted the issue of domestic violence within the Indian American and the larger South Asian American communities.

According to friends and neighbors, the Nakirekantis appeared like a normal couple who betrayed few signs of relationship troubles to the outside world. Yet, the conjugal unhappiness led to the violent deaths of the two before the break of dawn on Monday.

The murder-suicide was the second homicide case to rock the Indian American community this year. On January 11, Indian American Ankita Verma (29) was stabbed to death by her husband, Amit Kumar, in Baltimore.

Kumar, 39, fled the scene and turned himself to the police in Syracuse, New York, a few days later.

Held in custody, without bail, at the Onondaga County Jail in upstate New York, Kumar was awaiting extradition to Baltimore for his arraignment and an expected 1st degree murder charge.

In both cases, no motive has been given for the gruesome murders and, on the exterior, both couples looked like any other normal husband and wife.

The two incidents, 1,500 miles and six weeks apart, are cruel reminders that cases of domestic violence often go unreported and unaddressed among the Indian American community until it is too late.

It is widely believed that instances of domestic violence amongst Indian Americans and South Asians are grossly underreported, which can lead to fatal incidents such as the Sugar Land murder-suicide.

Often due to fear of stigma or because of being on dependent visas, H4 and L4, in the United States, with no friends or relatives to confide in, women in abusive relationships are left to fend for themselves.

In her recent book Never Again, Indian American lawyer Anu Peshawaria highlighted this problem, based on her personal experiences with victims of domestic violence amongst South Asian Americans.

Even though no national studies have been conducted to understand the problem within the South Asian American demography, there has been enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that South Asian women who undergo marital abuse find themselves trapped.

A fact sheet released as part of “Domestic Violence in South Asian Communities in 2017” report by the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender Based Violence (API GBV) provided a startling sample. In a study of a convenience sample of 208 South Asian American women recruited through community outreach in the Greater Boston area, 21 percent reported having ever experienced physical and/or sexual abuse at the hands of their intimate partner; 15 percent reported such experience during the previous year.

In a separate study, consisting of face-to-face interviews with 1,577 Asian Americans recruited from Asian American organizations and gathering places in the greater Houston area in Texas, 20 percent of Indian American respondents (154 males and females) reported experiencing at least one form of intimate partner violence, ranging from “thrown objects at the respondent” to “used a knife or gun on the respondent” during the previous year.

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