Indians were not targeted in my state, insists Victoria premier

By Murali Krishnan, IANS,

Melbourne : Victoria state Premier John Brumby says he is distressed by the recent attacks on Indian students in Melbourne but insists Indians were not targeted and pointed out how so many Indians settled here were well established and successful in their chosen fields.

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“It is a pity that these incidents have happened and it is distressing. But I am determined to fix it. Waves of immigration from Asia, Europe, Africa and the Pacific have always made Victoria, and especially Melbourne, the most diverse and multicultural place in the world,” Brumby told IANS.

There have been at least 16 such incidents in the last few weeks, a majority happening in Victoria. They have sparked allegations of widespread racism in Australian society and a failure by law enforcement authorities to act, thus putting the Brumby government in a spot.

“We have acted in a few incidents and some teenagers have been arrested while some have been sent to juvenile homes because of their age. I agree that the attack on the Indian student on the train that was captured on camera was racially biased,” he said.

However, Brumby was quick to point out that most cases were not racial in nature and assailants were either looking for soft targets to rob or Indians seemed vulnerable.

Investigations are still on to arrest the perpetrators behind the attack on Indian student Sravan Kumar Theerthala, who faced up to party-crashers, one of whom stabbed him in the head with a screw driver May 24.

The attack left the 25-year-old student battling for life in a hospital; a month later he is still in rehab.

“The worst is over but we pray he comes out fine,” said Sravan’s relative.

Melbourne is the country’s second largest city with a population of just over three million and its cosmopolitan makeup has been attracting people from world over. In fact, a quarter of its population is born overseas and it claims itself as the third largest Greek city in the world and the largest Italian city outside Italy.

As part of Brumby’s measures to improve safety, especially for Indian students, many of whom live in the suburbs, additional patrols by uniformed police and the dog squad and air wing operations have been mounted in trouble spots in and around Sunshine, St.Albans, Thomas town and Clayton areas – all which have witnessed such incidents.

“It is wrong to say there is a preponderance of crime against Indians. There are many Indians who are well established and successful and some who are doing extremely well in universities,” Brumby said.

In his reckoning, the protest organised by the Federation of Indian Students Association (FISA) May 31 in the heart of the city was to send out a different message.

“The students wanted to tell the established order that they had different needs.”

The protest was organised in Federation Square, the central business district in which hundreds of protesters blocked one of Melbourne’s busiest intersections. The protest was later broken up by police and 18 people were arrested.

To reaffirm to the world and all communities living in Victoria, Brumby is now planning a Harmony Walk July 12.

“We must not let the actions of a very small minority undermine one of the very tenets of our state. We are a community built on understanding, we are all equal.”