The murder of an Indian student in Manchester England has been designated a hate crime by local police, which suggests extra prison time if and when the culprits are convicted.

Anuj Bidve was shot to death at close range on Boxing Day on a Salford street.

The 23-year-old from Pune, India, was a post-graduate student of micro-electronics at Lancaster University and was reportedly shot after one of the assailants asked him for the time. Bidve was with eight or nine Indian friends who were visiting for the holidays.

The police have arrested five males between the ages of 16 and 20 in connection with the killing.

The gunman was described as a “white male” who reportedly engaged in a brief conversation with the victim just prior to shooting him.

There is no concrete evidence that the killing was motivated by racial or ethnic hatred of Indians.

Chief Superintendent Kevin Mulligan, divisional commander for Salford police, said: We have not established a clear motive for the senseless murder of Anuj and there is no definitive evidence pointing to it being racially motivated. However, we are treating this as a hate crime based on the growing perceptions within the community [that] it was motivated by hate.”

He added, however: “It is important we do not speculate on the possible motives for this murder.”

That hardly provides any proof that this was a hate crime.

I have no doubt that the Bidve’s murder could have been motivated by race hate, especially given Britain’s long troubled relationship with its Asian Indian minority population.

I am of Indian origin myself and am particularly sensitive to such issues.

However, I don’t see the point of attaching the “hate crime” tag to what is (by any rational perspective) a senseless killing and a tragedy.

I think the very idea of “hate crime” creates a kind of caste system among victims.

If a white man kills another white man (an act which presumably is not motivated by racism), is that any less tragic than a white man killing an Indian man? Should that white murder victim be accorded any less sympathy and compassion?

In terms of sentencing, the murderer (if convicted) would potentially have a few more years tacked on to his sentence if the court determines that he killed Bidve because of his race or ethnicity.

However, he will never receive the death penalty in Britain and a few more years in prison probably won’t make much difference to the convicted man if he is given a very long sentence anyway.

It will also be interesting to find out what the race and ethnicity of the murderers’ suspected cohorts are. What if one of them is Indian or black? How would that affect the “hate crime” angle?

I should point out that Salford is overwhelmingly white, so it’s possible that the killer or killers were white. But that alone would not guarantee that Bidve’s death was solely due to his race and nationality.

In a sense, all murders are hate crimes regardless of the identity of the perpetrators and victims.