Expatriate Indians downplay racial attacks in Australia

    By Bivekananda Biswas, IANS,

    New Delhi : Several Indians living in Australia have condemned the attack last month on an Indian student in that country but described the assault as one of several such stray incidents there.

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    Kushagra Bhatnagar, a financial analyst based at Greenslopes in the Australian state of Queensland and who was here to attend the 12th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) — the annual gathering of the Indian diaspora that concluded Thursday — said the attack on 20-year-old Manriajwinder Singh at a park in Melbourne Dec 29 was “very unfortunate”.

    He, however, said there might be some stray incidents of racial attacks on Indians in the country but otherwise the country is friendly towards them.

    Singh, 20, who is studying for a bachelor of commerce degree at a Melbourne university, is in an induced coma in a hospital in that Australian city after he was viciously attacked by a group of eight boys and a woman.

    A friend of his also sustained injuries and Australian police arrested three boys in connection with the attack.

    “This kind of incident can happen anywhere in the world … even in India there are so many such incidents,” Bhatnagar, who is also an active member of the Overseas Friends of BJP in Queensland, told IANS.

    “Of course, there are some ill elements in the society who indulge in this kind of ignoble things.”

    Bhatnagar said he has been living in Australia since 2008 and prior to that he was in Britain.

    “But I found them (Australians) very friendly,” he said.

    When asked whether this attack would adversely affect the inflow of students from India, he was of the view that the number of students from India to Australia would not go down, but they would like to go to other places such as Brisbane and Tasmania.

    “I don’t know the finer details about the attack on Manriajwinder Singh in Melbourne other than what I have read through the media. Trust the police will be able to prosecute the offenders,” said Vinod Daniel, chairman of AusHeritage, an Australia government organisation, who was also here for the PBD.

    Originally from Chennai, Daniel graduated from IIT Delhi in 1984 and has been living in Australia since 1995. Prior to that, he was in the US for eight years.

    “I have worked and continue to work internationally on projects and have been to over 40 countries. I have found Australia to be one of the most tolerant and safe countries which is very welcoming to any migrant,” he said.

    “I have an extensive circle of colleagues and friends from India (in Australia) and they would all agree with me,” Daniel asserted, adding that his two children and wife find Australia “a fantastic place to live in”.

    He was of the opinion that such unfortunate incidents can happen in any big city, “whether it be New Delhi or London or Cairo or New York or Melbourne”.

    “I am confident that the law enforcement authorities would arrest and prosecute the offenders (in the Manriajwinder Singh case). Most of these isolated incidents are opportunistic crimes rather than racially motivated crimes,” Daniel said.

    “I would strongly recommend Australia as a fantastic destination for Indian tourists as well as prospective students.”

    (Bivekananda Biswas can be contacted at [email protected])