India Protests: Attacks On Students Down Under
Australia is basically a laidback and relaxed country, and perhaps so is the policing. So when the top Indian leadership, led by the prime minister, almost bombarded the Australian top leaders and expressed their concern at the alleged racial profiling of (and attacks on) Indian students at Melbourne and Sydney, Mr Kevin Rudd had to sit up and assure safety to the Indian students. (See Sydney Morning Herald report here…)
To further highlight the latest attacks, India’s legendary Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan has reacted to “racial attacks” on Indian students in Australia by rejecting an honorary doctorate offered to him by an Australian university. (More here…)
The Premier of the State of Victoria, Australia, had a meeting with the Indian High Commissioner & Consul General of India in Melbourne to assess the situation. More here…
(Meanwhile a senior official in Melbourne said that the attacks on Indian students in this Australian city were “not racially motivated,” adding “we think they are vulnerable, we don’t think it’s racial”. More here…)
One of the victims – Shravan Kumar – is still in a critical condition. The Melbourne authorities on Friday arrested five teenagers in connection with the attack and have charged one of them with attempted murder.
But even as the attack on the four students caused outrage here, yet another assault against an Indian student took place. Rajesh Kumar, a 25-year-old student, suffered 30% burns after a petrol bomb was thrown at him in his Sydney home. More here…
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Indian students aren’t the only ones. Thugs have also robbed and assaulted Vietnamese and Saudi students in Australia. (Photo above courtesy NDTV: An Australian man holds up a banner while Indian students and supporters rally in Melbourne on May 31, 2009.)
An average 430,000-odd international students arrive Down Under each year. Of them, 97,000 are Indians. Education is Australia’s third-largest export earner behind coal and iron ore. It generated about 15.5 billion dollars worth of business last year. More here…
The attacks have also triggered a wave of anti-Australian commentary on Indian news blog sites. More here…
With the sudden influx of a large number of students from India during the past four years (especially from the northern state of Punjab), the visibility of Indian students has gone up on the streets of Australian cities. The travel agents have mushroomed in cities like Chandigarh and Ludhiana.
In the past, the Indian and Australian governments had been getting reports of the dubious manner in which the travel agents were sending the students who could neither speak English nor were prepared to adapt to a foreign culture. Many students have a rural Indian background.
Many Indian students visit Australia to get permanent residency. So even when they are attacked they prefer to keep quiet so that their chances of getting PR are not affected. But now with the frequency of the attacks having gone up, the lid has been removed…
Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd will have to take pro-active steps to promote his favourite policy stance of building partnerships with countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
First, Rudd would have to put pressure on the Indian government to curb the activities of the travel agents in India who charge exorbitant fees from students and make false promises, such as getting them Permanent Resident visas, etc.
The Australian High Commission in India needs to put stringent tests in place to ensure that entrants to Australia know English and are acquainted with basic information about Australian culture and lifestyle.
Kevin Rudd’s government is sincerely attempting to make Australia a multi-cultural country. Australian government is known for its generosity in funding diverse cultural institutions. There are a number of such institutions in every Australian city. These should be encouraged to organise regular counselling sessions for students.
Last year during my six months stay in Adelaide, South Australia, I found that several young people had nowhere to go to sort out their basic problems. Even the reach of the local Indian associations was rather limited. The universities and teaching institutions should open/strengthen cells to provide counselling to students.
I taught journalism for a while at the University of South Australia, Magill campus. But I never heard of any racist attack (maybe Adelaide is a different place).
The Australian police perhaps needs special orientation/training because this is a new dimension in policing for many of the cops. Racism exists in one form or the other in every country, even in India. And Australia is no exception.