News

Indian Students Claim Epidemic of Racist Violence in Australia

Phil Mercer

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has condemned as "senseless acts of violence" a series of race attacks on Indian students in Melbourne.  The Indian high commissioner is demanding greater protection for Indians studying in Australia, as state authorities in the southern state of Victoria draw up new laws to crack down on hate crimes. 

A series of assaults on Indian students in Australia prompted about 3,000 people to take part in a recent rally in Melbourne to demand greater protection from the authorities, who are accused of doing too little to stem the violence.

There were ugly clashes between protesters and police.  More than a dozen people were arrested.

Indian High Commissioner to Australia Sujatha Singh says many young expatriates are furious that their concerns have not been properly addressed.

"Our Indian communities overseas are law abiding. They go by the rules and, if they're being provoked into this [protests], it is because they have very real concerns," said Singh.

In the past year, about 70 attacks on young Indians in Melbourne have been reported and there are claims by community groups that the vast majority have been racially motivated.

The latest victim of the violence - a 25-year-old Indian student - is in a critical condition after being stabbed with a screwdriver by intruders at a birthday party.

His friend, Srinivas Vedantam, insists the attack was carried out by racist thugs.

"When they entered the party and they started abusing - using the racial abuses, like 'You black Indians,' like that stuff. So it ended up with a racial attack," said Vedantam.

However, senior police officers doubt that the violence directed toward the Indian community in Australia is exclusively motivated by racial prejudice.

Victoria Police Chief Simon Overland insists that students, in general, have become "easy targets" for opportunistic criminals.

"It's partly violence against Indian students," he said. "It's escalating robberies and we have used the term 'soft-target robberies.'  Now, the Indian students have taken that as referring directly to them;  it's not. What we have seen is that robberies are now happening more directed against people in the street, directed against people who are wandering around with laptop computers, mobile phones, iPods, cash.   And, if they're alone, they're vulnerable."
            
The attacks have caused diplomatic friction between Canberra and New Delhi.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has publicly reassured the Indian government that Australia is not a racist country and says he was appalled by the assaults.    

"These are senseless acts of violence.  Those who carry out these attacks stand condemned," he said.            

In response, the Rudd government has set up a special task force to deal with the violence.

The new unit will be lead by a former chief of Australia's Special Forces, Duncan Lewis, who is one of the government's most-senior national security advisers.

Officials in Victoria also want those convicted of racially-motivated offenses to be given more severe punishments.

Victoria Attorney General Rob Hulls says judges should take bigotry into account when passing sentence.  

"We want to send a message that any crime that's committed purely based on hatred or prejudice against a group of people is not to be tolerated, but it ought be something that is taken into account in the sentencing principles in this state," he said.   

But some Indian students, like Jayasanker Bagiepalli, are too fearful to remain in Australia and are heading home.

"See what happens here?  We are being attacked.  Not once, twice.  Many people, many Indians are being attacked.  That's what happens here.  So if this country, you know, people from India really stops coming here.   My parents doesn't (sic) want me to stay here," said Bagiepalli,

About 90,000 Indian students are living in Australia.  They generate millions of dollars for the national economy, each year.

The Australian wave of violence has made headline news across India.

Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan has rejected an honorary doctorate from a university in Queensland to protest the assaults on Indian students in Australia. 

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs