Missing Indian student found dead in US

NEW YORK, Apr 9: A 25-year-old Indian student who had been missing since last month was found dead in the US city of Cleveland, the second death within a week in the country as the community grapples with a string of such tragedies.
Mohammad Abdul Arfath, hailing from Nacharam, Hyderabad, arrived in the US last year in May to pursue a Masters in IT from Cleveland University.
“Anguished to learn that Mr Mohammed Abdul Arfath, for whom search operation was underway, was found dead in Cleveland, Ohio,” the Consulate General of India in New York said in a post on X.
Offering “deepest condolences” to Arfath’s family, the Consulate said it is in touch with local agencies to ensure a thorough investigation into his death.
“We are extending all possible assistance to the bereaved family to transport his mortal remains to India,” the Consulate added.
Last month, the Consulate said that it was working with local law enforcement authorities to locate the Indian student.
According to a report in WKYC 3News last week, Arfath left his home at Reserve Square on March 5 and had not returned. Cleveland police told the news outlet that “they have concerns for his safety.” Police had also issued a “missing person” alert for Arfath that had described him as being 5’8″ tall, weighing 150 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a white t-shirt, red jacket and blue jeans.
The WKYC 3News report cited a statement from Cleveland State University which said that university records showed that Arfath “was no longer a registered Cleveland State student as of January 2024, nor did he live on campus while attending Cleveland State.”
Cleveland State University Police Department was providing information as needed to assist the Cleveland Division of Police with their active investigation of Arfath’s disappearance.
“The University’s thoughts are with his loved ones, and CSU PD will continue to serve as a resource to Cleveland police as needed,” the statement said.
Arfath’s father Mohammed Saleem had said that Arfath last spoke to him on March 7, and since then he has not been in touch with his family. His mobile phone is switched off as well.
“We are working with local law enforcement agencies to find him at the earliest,” the Consulate had said.
Arfath’s roommates in the US had informed his father that they lodged a missing persons complaint with Cleveland Police. However, on March 19, Arfath’s family received a call from an unidentified person, who claimed that Arfath had been kidnapped allegedly by a gang selling drugs and demanded USD 1,200 to “release” him.
The caller also threatened to sell Arfath’s kidneys if the ransom wasn’t paid, his father said.
“I got a call from an unknown number, and the caller informed me that my son had been kidnapped and demanded money. The caller did not mention the mode of payment but just asked to pay the amount. When I asked the caller to allow us to talk to my son, he refused,” Saleem told PTI in Hyderabad last month.
Arfath’s parents have requested the Central government to take necessary measures to locate and bring back their son safely. Saleem has also written to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.
The incident is the latest in a string of troubling cases on the safety and security of Indian students in the US.
Last week, an Indian student in Ohio, Uma Satya Sai Gadde, died and police are investigating the case.
Last month, a 34-year-old trained classical dancer from India, Amarnath Ghosh, was shot dead in St Louis, Missouri.
Last month, the Consulate posted on X about the death of Abhijeeth Paruchuru, a 20-year-old Indian student in Boston. Paruchuru’s parents, based in Connecticut, had been in direct touch with detectives and initial investigations into his death had ruled out foul play.
Sameer Kamath, a 23-year-old Indian-American student at Purdue University, was found dead in a nature preserve in Indiana on February 5.
On February 2, Vivek Taneja, a 41-year-old Indian-origin IT executive, suffered life-threatening injuries during an assault outside a restaurant in Washington.
In January, 18-year-old Akul Dhawan, a University of Illinois student was found unresponsive outside a campus building. Investigations revealed that he died due to hypothermia, with authorities ruling that acute alcohol intoxication and prolonged exposure to extremely cold temperatures significantly contributed to his death.
In another tragedy that month, 25-year-old Indian student Vivek Saini was hammered to death by a homeless drug addict in Georgia.
Amid the string of tragic and concerning incidents involving Indian students in the US, former CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi had advised them to be “watchful”, respect local laws and urged them to not engage in drugs or excessive drinking to ensure their safety and security.
Nooyi, considered among the most powerful and influential business executives globally, issued an over 10-minute long video advising Indian students coming to the US to stay safe and alert and to avoid activities that can land them in trouble.
“It’s up to you to make sure you do what it takes to remain safe.…stay within the law, do not venture out into dark places alone at night, and do not engage in drugs or excessive drinking please. All of these are just formulae for disaster,” she said.
Volunteer-based nonprofit organisation TEAM Aid has been assisting in repatriating the mortal remains of several individuals in these and other cases to India. TEAM Aid founder Mohan Nannapaneni has said that the organisation is in the process of initiating “educational and preventative” programmes soon to offer guidance and support to Indian immigrants here, including students and workers, aimed at ensuring their safety and security.
In February, Nannapaneni had told PTI that his organisation was dealing with at least one such tragic case a day. He had said that there have been instances of Indian students tragically passing away due to car accidents and drowning. He had also raised concern that drug abuse is becoming rampant across the US and unfortunately, there have been cases of Indian students succumbing to drug abuse and overdose. (PTI)