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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2679

Down with the down under

By M. Rama Rao - Syndicate Features

"Curry bashing" seems to be becoming a popular Australian sport. According to some reports over 70 incidents of grievous attacks on Indian students have been reported in the past one year. Some other reports have spoken of much higher figures. Taking the lower figure to be true, it still works out to an average of more than one assault a week on Indians in Australia.

It is natural and right to be angry at the Australian authorities for their incredibly callous attitude towards the safety of Indian students—reported to be 90,000-- who make a hefty contribution to their coffers. The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, may have to do some explaining to do whenever he embarks on his postponed visit to India. The Government of India must also share the blame for a callousness of almost equal nature.

The attacks on Indians in Australia have been going on systematically for about three years, but the Government of India, which has a ministry of overseas Indians, did not deem it fit to take up the matter with the Australians forcefully. It is only now after one Indian student nearly lost his life that New Delhi has woken up to the problems of safety of Indians in general and students in particular who happen to be living Down Under.

It is deplorable that the UPA Government is not willing to talk tough with the Australians even now. The Aussies may see and portray India as a third world country but placed at number 15, their own economy is a good three notches below India’s. Besides, they cannot ignore the contribution made to their economy and the education system by the Indians.

Australia has become the second most preferred (after the US) choice of Indian students for studies in a foreign country. Here is a ‘third world’ country that seems to be subsidising Australian economy through a multi-million dollar injection. Does it give no leverage to India for it to talk tough with the Aussies?
The Australians continue to downplay the incidents against Indians and will continue to do so because they are not willing to accept the truth that there is a strong racist streak in their society. One of their prominent politicians has openly spoken abusively of Asian migrants. The average white Australian has been fed the belief that their jobs are under threat from the ‘inferior’ Indians.

It is ridiculous to find that some responsible Indians have supported the Australian white lie that the attacks on Indian students are not racist but ‘opportunistic.’ Frankly, one does not know what is really implied by the word ‘opportunistic’ here. If that word provides a justified cover to the Australians, then it can be said that nearly every crime, including murder and rape, can be called ‘opportunistic’, which the Australians have defined as a person being on the wrong place at the wrong time.

The racist streak among the white Australians, most of them descendents of former British convicts, has been evident for long. It has become a big issue on the cricket field too when the Australians routinely use racist slur against their opponents from India and other parts of the region. The arrogance of these racists was evident when a victorious Australian team had nudged a senior Indian minister off the dais where they had gathered to pose with the winning trophy.

The event was forgotten by the Indians in the 'Gandhigiri' style when it should have been pressed further. Similarly, an Australian cricketer was allowed to spread the falsehood that a fellow Indian cricketer had used a racist abuse against him.

The Australian arrogance and the bias of the average white Australian was well reflected in the way the Australian police handled the peaceful protest demonstration of Indian students in Melbourne on May 31. The media reports and the photos circulating on the Internet clearly suggest a force of 200 policemen had encircled a demonstration by about 2000 Indians and when the protest began to warm up, the policemen surrounded some of the protestors—six for one protestor—as they began to punch them and hit them with their batons.

A police officer admitted that some protestors were hit in the mouth but, he added, it was justified because the protestors had not left the area after they were advised to do so. He also denied that the police had used 'inappropriate' force against the demonstrators even when at least one of the demonstrators had to be admitted to hospital with serious injuries.

What took the cake was the officer claiming that some of the protestors were ‘drunk’ and used it as excuse justifying the brutal use of force. In a land, where drinking beer is as common as drinking tea in India, to talk of someone being ‘drunk’ must be surely seen as a frivolous or irresponsible charge. In any case, does it justify the policemen stomping on the chest of the 'drunk' protestors and repeatedly hitting them on the face?

Till the Indians hit the streets, the Australian media took little or no notice of the attacks on the Indians though the same media would play up anything untoward that happens to an Australian in India. Certainly, no Australian would ever agree that any of their citizens in India became a victim of an 'opportunistic' crime. It is interesting that on the day the media in India was reporting the Melbourne demonstration by Indian students, the big story from India in the Australian media was about an elderly Australian being found dead in Patna, hinting at dark things.

Needless to say, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd cannot take shelter under the plea that the attacks on Indian students are a part of much wider problem of urban violence. He must get to root of the problem, bring the perpetrators of violence to justice and demonstrate a commitment to developing a stronger, closer relationship with India. It is a tall order considering that Australian opposition is not ready to buy his explanations. They have reasons for reasons as Ted Baillieu, an opposition leader in Victoria ( the province where Melbourne is located) said, 'Sadly, the issue is not new; we’ve been raising these concerns for nearly three years and the problem’s got worse, not better'.

- Asian Tribune -

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