Indians aren’t the only ones to have been attacked: Police

By Neena Bhandari, IANS,

Sydney : Students from India are not the only ones to have been attacked in Australia, the police say, as the Indian community here points out that some students from India do not behave properly in public places.

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There have been a string of attacks on Indian students that left one student suffering from severe burn injuries and another seriously injured, causing outrage in India.

According to Victoria police sources, in 2007-08, there were 36,765 victims of crimes such as robberies and assaults, of which 24,260 were Caucasian and 1,447 were people of Indian origin.

Victoria’s Chief Police Commissioner Simon Overland, writing in the Herald Sun, has urged the Indian community to continue to work with the police to find an effective and sustainable solution.

Said Overland: “Some of these crimes are racially motivated; however I also believe that many of the robberies and other crimes of violence are simply opportunistic”.

Indian community members here point out that some Indian students do not behave properly in public places, especially in trains and market places. They play loud music and speak loudly on the phone in public transport, some can hardly converse in English and many choose to just stick to people from their own region.

While increasing attacks on Indian students in Australia must be strongly condemned, giving it racial overtones is causing much concern amongst the over 200,000-odd Indian diaspora who call Australia home, Indian community leaders here say.

“Australia is certainly not a racist country. My children study here and they have not faced any discrimination”, Moninder Singh, CEO of Australian Academy of Management & Science in the Sydney suburb of Quakers Hill, told IANS.

Australian cultural fabric is one of the most multicultural in the world with over 200 nationalities comprising one-quarter or 5.3 million of the estimated resident population of 21 million as June 30, 2007, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Indian migrants in Australia hail not only from the sub-continent, but Fiji, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Uganda and other countries. They are respected professionals and business people who have integrated into the mainstream.

Most Indian children are high achievers and young Indians are helping strengthen the Australian economy with 15,865 professionals seeking permanent residence under the skilled migration programme during 2006-2007.

“Largely, Australians are peaceful people. It is certain gangs seeking soft targets to make quick money,” says a former international student Jolen Patel who is peeved that the issue of students’ rights and safety has been mired by everyone jumping on the racist bandwagon.

Financial needs compel most students to work at odd hours, rent cheaper accommodation in distant suburbs, travel late at night in public transport and then walk home on poorly-lit streets. A large number of them drive taxis at night to pay for their accommodation, fees and everyday expenses.

In Melbourne’s western suburbs, the Police Indian Western Reference Group has been set up to collectively discuss ways to decrease the level of victimisation of Indian students. Police say 30 percent of assaults in the western suburbs are against Indians, which is a disproportionate figure in a city of almost four million.

The total number of Indian students enrolled in Australian educational institutions till end March 2009 was 68,713 and 47 percent of them were in Victoria, making them the largest group of overseas students in this south-eastern state.

While 22,387 are enrolled in higher education, 47,067 are in vocational and training courses. A large number of these students seek permanent resident visas on completion of study and the locals in the current economic scenario are worried about jobs going to them.

(Neena Bhandari can be contacted at [email protected])