Australia: Indian Students Try Self-Protection
Australia’s leading newspaper, The Age, carries a photograph of Indian students gathered outside St Albans railway station in Melbourne (see above). They have decided to move in groups “after incidents of intimidation in which train inspectors failed to intervene and police failed to respond to calls for help.”
While the governments of India and Australia are opting for diplomatic and political officialese, the ground realities are different and dangerous, if one goes by the reports in the Australian newspapers. There are clear indications that the situation in Australia may go out of hand.
Surprisingly, no one in the Australian government is talking about the need to strengthen the police response to the crime. There has been no investigation into why the police is not acting quickly when they are being called upon to help the victims. Ultimately, it is the alert and effective policing that can stem the tide of violence, not mere speeches by the Federal or the State government ministers or officials.
The Age reports: “Increasing attacks on Indian students catching late-night trains home to St Albans have forced them to organise their own protection. Every night this week students and workers are gathering at the western suburbs station to provide safe passage for Indian commuters.
“Their action is in response to racist taunts and abuse on trains, and bashing while making their way home. They were waiting at the station every night from 9.30pm until the last train, and dividing into smaller groups which were assigned to street corners to prevent attacks.
“On Tuesday night, when a long knife was flashed at him and two friends, Mr Gary Singh said he called police and pointed out the youths but ‘the police didn’t check on them, they just told us to go home’.
” ‘We are not giving up,’ he said. ‘We are here to save our friends. We are not getting any protection from police or from the railways’.
“The Age learnt that in the latest attack, an Indian youth had his head cut open leaving the station on Sunday. As passing cars slowed down and occupants yelled out abuse to the ‘f—ing curries’, Gary Singh said the Indian student community was fed up.
” ‘If Kevin (Prime Minister Rudd) can return everyone’s money, we will go back. We’re not here for any violence, we’re here for study. He can return whatever we’ve spent on rent and fares’, Gary Singh said.”
In recent years, the number of Indians studying in Victoria has grown sharply, as have robberies and assaults on the Indian student community. “In the western suburbs particularly, students have been targeted on public transport and in streets near train stations, robbed of mobile phones, money and laptops, and sometimes bashed. Many incidents have unfolded to a soundtrack of racial slurs.
“Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland recently revealed that robberies and assaults on people of Indian backgrounds were up by almost 34 per cent last year, to 1147.
“Initially, the police denied racism was a motive, instead suggesting the crimes were opportunistic raids on lone, late-night travellers or individuals outnumbered by roaming gangs. But Overland conceded that some of the crimes were ‘racially motivated’.
“Amit Menghani, president of the Federation of Indian Students of Australia, says attacks have been under-reported because students who have made complaints have been met with what they see as inaction.
“Menghani says one Indian student filed a complaint with police after he was robbed but heard nothing and so did not bother to report two subsequent robberies.” More here…
Meanwhile a leading Indian film industry union said on Friday “it would not shoot any films in Australia until the government takes action against people behind a series of violent assaults on Indian students there,” reports Reuters.
“Australia is a hot destination for Indian film-makers with about a dozen films shot there every year. Two of last year’s biggest hits, “Bachna Ae Haseeno” and “Singh is King”, were shot in Australia.” More here…
Sunanda K Datta-Ray, India’s veteran and respected journalist, writes: “A friend in Sydney tells me they (Indian students) are blue-collar workers rather than students. He says that ‘teaching shops have sprung up like mushrooms’ to cater to a demand created by massive advertising in India by Australian government departments and airlines.
“ ‘Each (teaching shop) is about the size of a shop in a mall’. Their primary task is to teach English to newly arrived young Indians of limited means whose parents have probably incurred huge debts to send them to better their chance in life in, let’s be frank, a developed white country.
“To quote my friend’s e-mail, ‘These kids all live together in cramped accommodation and work at night in menial jobs or driving taxis. Result, they are exposed to the worst kind of elements in our already frustrated society.’ At last count, there were some 200,000 Indian students in Australia. Many more ethnic Indians were born in Australia.
“My friend blames this proliferation of shoddy teaching shops and the kind of Indians they attract for the problem. My friend did a Yellow Pages search for places of ‘tertiary education’ in Sydney’s central business district and found no fewer than 54.
“ ‘Imagine a city centre with 54 places for tertiary education? How good can they be?’ Even some of the names seem suspect. ‘Yet, you look at the big universities, and you’ll find Asian students are extremely well assimilated, do well at both scholastic and extra-curricular work, are leaders in the students’ unions, bag most of the academic prizes, and really enjoy their education’.” More here…