Tuesday, March 3, 2009

“Curry-bashing” on the rise in Melbourne – Indian students targeted

NOTE: This is an old post. It's still relevant, but for more recent posts on anti-Indian violence in Australia, check here.

Melbourne, long known as one of the world’s safest cities, has seen an alarming increase in violent crime of late. While alcohol fuelled-brawling in the CBD has made many recent headlines, another worrying trend is seemingly on the increase – robberies and attacks on South Asian people.

The western suburbs have seen a 27% increase in the number of robberies in the last financial year, and police estimate that one-third of these were against people of Indian appearance (read: Indians, Sri-Lankans, Mauritians, Nepalis, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis.) Considering that South Asians would make up no more than 5% of the population in the area, that is a staggering figure.

The South Asian presence in Melbourne has visibly increased in recent years. Approximately 33,000 international students from India study here, predominantly in the areas of business and information technology. Tamils from Sri Lanka have been one of the main refugee groups settling in the city. Add to that the significant number of those young Indians who have finished their studies and now working here, as well as the large numbers of South Asians who were either born locally or have been settled here for a number of years. They are also a highly visible minority on trains, on university campuses and in certain occupations.

It’s hard to say why this has translated into South Asians being particularly vulnerable to robbery and assault. A racial element is all too obvious in some of the attacks. But if you were thinking of it as white-on-brown, Aussie-versus-foreigner violence, you’d be mistaken, as the picture is more complicated than that. There is no dominant trend apparent in the ethnic background of the attackers – Anglos as well as people of European, Middle Eastern, African and Asian heritage all feature.

Sunshine (the epicentre of these attacks) and its surrounding suburbs are undersupplied with community-enriching programs and facilities, but well-supplied with at-risk young men of various ethnicities who are susceptible to a lifestyle of brawling and petty crime. On the lookout for ways to prove their manhood and feel a sense of power, they pick on the different and the vulnerable.

So are these hate crimes per se, or are Indians just in the wrong place at the wrong time? A bit of both, I'd wager.

Since a large number of South Asians, particularly the recently-arrived, are getting around using public transport rather than driving cars, this puts them in danger more frequently. Likewise, occupations such as taxi drivers and convenience store operators, in which Indians feature disproportionally, are particularly vulnerable to criminal violence. In other words, Indians are seen as soft targets, and their high visibility as “the other” – particularly for turban-wearing Sikhs, who seem to have especially targeted - makes them vulnerable.

Inspector Scott Mahony of the Brimbank Police said as much when he advised Indian students how to reduce their chances of attack. "They need to make sure they walk through a well-lit route, even if it might be longer, and they are not openly displaying signs of wealth with iPods and phones, and not talking loudly in their native language."

Which is all well and good, but given that talking loudly and displaying phones and iPods are common to a great many young people, one might be inclined to see a hint of victim-blaming in this. Check out Indian-Australian journalist Sushi Das' take on this.

Whatever the reason, there is a growing sense of unease in South Asian communities. Fortunately women do not seem to have been particularly targeted in these attacks, but this is small consolation for the male victims. Below are just small selection:

* Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, the widely respected former head of the Australian Medical Association was mugged and savagely beaten by a group of teenagers in Williamstown last September.

* 23-year old student Jalvinder Singh was stabbed while driving a taxi in Clifton Hill in April last year. This incident led to the demonstration by taxi drivers which shut down traffic in the CBD, complaining about lack of protection for cabbies, but also of racial targeting by the many Indians at the protest.

* Two Indian students walking down a street in Sunshine were set upon for no apparent reason by thugs who jumped out of a car wielding baseball bats in August 2007.

* Sukhraj Singh, 27, was in a coma for weeks after he and 3 other Indian men were set upon in an Indian grocery store in Sunshine by a group of up to 15 youths wielding metal poles. The local police apparently took 50 minutes to arrive on the scene. This led to a demonstration of 100 Indians outside Sunshine Police Station in December.

* Mauritian man Binesh Mosaheb was assaulted and robbed last year by four men. The attackers, of a variety of ethnicities, were part of a larger group that had bashed to death Chinese-Australian academic Zhonjun Cao in nearby Footscray earlier that night; the gang members then suggested they go “curry-bashing.”

* Two young Sikhs alighting at Albion station after working late at night in the city were attacked by two men and a woman in January 2008. Ajaydeep Singh was racially abused and needed six stitches on his eye. Ricky Ahluwalia was also bashed and had his wallet stolen.

* 26 year-old accounting student Kanan Kharbanda had only been in Australia five months when he was attacked by a mob of around 10 people at Sunshine railway station a year ago. He fled back to India, and is now blind in his right eye.

* Between May 8 and August 2 last year there were 12 assaults on taxi drivers in 3 suburbs in the inner northwest. 10 of the drivers were Indian, and the assailants were all reported as African youths.

Bear in mind that many Indians suspect the actual number of attacks to be greater than stated by the police, since new migrants can be less likely to report crimes out of fear of retribution or mistrust of police.

I have a lot of time for the western suburbs, but there is something sick that is festering out there. I don’t know what is happening to my city, but it’s becoming a scary place.

To keep abreast of this issue as it is covered on this blog, make sure to SUBSCRIBE (Top right of the screen).

UPDATE (June 5th 2009):

It seems that certain people reading this post are taking information about the ethnicity of some of these attackers and twisting it to fit their own racist and anti-immigrant agendas. Just because I made mention that some of the attacks were committed by Africans, this in no way implies that Africans are responsible for the majority of them.

I've posted more recently on this issue, attempting to set the record straight about the ethnicity of the attackers. The point being made here is that there is no real pattern, other than that the attackers are predominantly young and male. You can find that link here.

The last thing I want is for my blog to be used as the tool of right-wing xenophobic bastards.

Other posts related to this topic:

Are Australians really racist towards Indians?

Another racist attack on Indians in Melbourne; police accused of cover-up

Disgraceful attacks against Indians continue

Attacks on Indians - is it racism or opportunism?

More Indian students attacked, and temple vandalised

Kamahl weighs in on curry-bashing - and the media twists it

Curry-bashing ringleader jailed for murder

3 more Indian students bashed in a fortnight


  1. i just read another bashing where a student was hospitalised.

    the universities and tafe's that take extrodinary amount of fees from these students should feel a sense of moral responsibility. i think they should fund a safety campaign to increase the level of security in public transport as well as safety education programs.

  2. You may have a point, anonymous. I'm not sure how much the tertiary institutions can really do though, if people are still out there who want to bash Indians. But there is clearly not enough police presence in some of the western suburb hotspots, and the level of security that exists around train stations is frankly non-existent.

  3. It's not just Sri Lankan Tamils coming here as Refugees...The vast majority of Sri Lankans coming here as Refugees are the Singhalese..You need to get your facts right

  4. My wife is of Indian descent from Trinidad in the Caribbean, where half the population is of African descent and the other half of Indian descent. Both emerged from slavery, with the Indian's version called 'indenture'. Both arrived penniless. But now the Indians are usually more wealthy. Kidnapping for ransom, often of Indians, is a scourge there, read:


  5. http://www.truveo.com/family-appeals-for-help/id/1733440939

    Asian gang bashes Indian looking man.


    Indian driver bashed by Asian gang.

  6. Andrew Bolt is using this article to in effect suggest that biology causes people's behaviors. What do you think about that?

  7. Anon, Andrew Bolt's doing nothing of the sort. He's actually highlighting the politically-correct way the ABC and Age omits the racial details of those who attack Indians. Learn to read.

  8. The point is, how is race causally relevant? To suggest race CAUSES the behaviour is to be racist. Look it up in the dictionary. But Andrew always says he's not racist ... and then goes on to imply that race is CAUSALLY relevant. If he doesn't believe this, then it's enough to say that criminals committed a crime, which is kinda tautologous. (As to why they committed the crime is a complex question that is examined by ethicists, sociologists, etc., and in Andrew's case, eugenicists.) It would only be relevant to mention their apparent race if race CAUSED their actions. In which case their "race" -- those who committed the crime as well as those who didn't -- are EQUALLY GUILTY of the crime, because it was the "race" COLLECTIVELY, and not the relevant INDIVIDUAL, who is responsible for the commission of the crime. The Law will try those criminals as INDIVIDUALS. Andrew wants the apparent "race" to which they belong to be COLLECTIVELY tried. Andrew Bolt is being a racist. Look it up in the dictionary.

  9. Ok, where to start...
    Firstly, can everyone stop calling themselves "anonymous", it makes it confusing for me to reply to them.

    @ Anon 2:17am - you may be right about most Lankan refugees being Sinhalese, I'm only going on anecdotal evidence. There's certainly plenty of Tamils coming in, in any case.

    @ Anon 7:49pm - yeah, it's funny, I've always thought of Andrew Bolt to be a bit of a tosser, but I appreciate his recognition of my blog anyway. And in his defence, I think he's pretty good at cutting through the bullsh*t sometimes. But I agree with Dan (11:38pm) I think you are misrepresenting the point of his article. There's no imputation that race causes violence; although based on other articles from Bolt, I wouldn't be surprised if he actually did think that way.
    At the same time, I can't say I agree with Bolt that we need to be identifying the ethnicity of offenders. That stuff gets used out of context to unfairly condemn certain groups in society. The media needs to be careful with that information.

  10. I'm the anti-Bolt dude.

    Well said, Eurasian. But I don't think I've misrepresented the point of Bolt's articles, the point being, I too am good at cutting through the BS, and I've seen through Andrew's BS for a while now. Basically his concept of the Australian nation is that where everybody shares the same "ethnicity", understood by him as constituting people of northern European descent and obviously appearance.

    The following link is to a post he made which gives away his way of thinking on the matter, where he refuses to see the French soccer team as being French because many of them are dark-skinned (I'm sure he'd consider you less of an Australian than him, because of you're not purely of Nordic descent:


    Moreover, what other purpose would insisting on identifying the "race" of the offender have unless one thought "race" was causally relevant, that is, that one thought that somehow "race" can account for people's behaviour and so explains why the crime was committed?

  11. Welcome back Anonymous Anti-Bolt Dude. I agree that the French soccer article is a kinda provocative, and can easily be taken in the way that you suggest.

    I must say though, I'm very cautious about accusing people of racism; I talk about ethnicity and culture a lot on this blog, frequently in a playful way, and have been accused of racism also (spuriously, in my opinion). People's opinions are frequently more complex and multifaceted than a knee-jerk accusations give them credit for. So I don't want to leap to too many conclusions about whatever lurks in Bolt's heart, a shifty bugger though he may be! ;)

    On your second point, I agree that the mention of race can be used by people (including Bolt) to inflame tensions. However, I confess to being extremely curious myself about the ethnicity of the offenders. As a violence prevention educator (by day), I'm very interested in social trends, and trying to understand why things happen so we can try to change them. Many of us are interested in the role of culture in people's attitudes and behaviours - its part of curiosity about why the world is the way it is. Personally, I think that culture has a role in many of our society's ills, and I don't think it is racist to say so, so long as it is objective and reasonable comment. As an example, if I were to comment upon the ugly attitudes towards women prevalent among certain ethnic communities, I'm gonna come from the perspective of "how can we address and change these attitudes?" rather than "send 'em all back."

    All that said, Bolt's column is read by plenty of people with xenophobic axes to grind (and whose idea objective and reasonable comment is indeed "send 'em all back", so I totally understand why the police and media frequently do not mention race.

  12. You say that you're interested in the "role of culture in people's attitudes and behaviours..."

    Hey, I'm interested in such as well.

    But because I'm not a racist, I don't believe that "race" can account for difference's in people's attitudes and behaviour.

    As to culture, now that is a different matter altogether!

    Now, many people who subscribe to the gang sub-culture emanating from South Central, LA, may be more likely to engage in violent and aggressive and criminal behaviour, indeed, they may be OBLIGED to engage in such behaviour, for the sake of "keepin' it real", that is, for the sake of achieving verisimilitude with the sub-culture they are seeking to mimic. The heroes of this particular sub-culture are by definition "bad-ass" boys, like Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent. So people who subscribe to this sub-culture are more likely to act accordingly because such behaviour is dictated by this sub-culture.

    But what CAUSES their behavior? Race (biology)? Or culture?

    Again, since I'm not a racist -- since I don't believe "race" (biology) accounts for differences in people's behaviour -- I ascribe the behaviour of gangbangers (wannabe or fair dinkum) to the particular sub-culture they subscribe to. Their "race" (biology) is incidental to the issue, being more or a marker rather than an involuntary cause of the behaviour. Bikies, for example, ride Harleys. Therefore (according to this materialist, physicalist position) the Harley causes any bad behaviour they may engage in. But in reality the Harley is only incidental, and any disproportionate bad behaviour emanating from the bikies stems from the particular sub-culture to which they subscribe rather than the noticeable fact that they all ride Harleys.

    As that post re. the French soccer team showed, Andrew equates skin colour with culture, seeing the two as interchangeable. Skin colour is determined by genes. The inference made by the likes of Bolt (explicitly or implicitly) is that culture -- behaviour -- is also determined by genes, since as far as they seem to be concerned, one produces the other.

    But again, since I'm not a racist, I cannot accept this point of view. Andrew, when referring to the infractions of some gangbangers seeking to mimic as best they can their heroes from South Central, LA, wishes to expand condemnation of this behaviour to "Africans" in general, since to him the behaviour of some gangbangers is a microcosm of behaviour obviously inherent in "Africans" (who, by the way, cannot be treated as anything other than monolithic). That's why he can speak comfortably of "Africans", in the collective sense, as being somehow responsible for the infractions of some wannabe gangstas, rather than focusing on the individual offenders themselves, as the Police do, or the particular South Central, LA, sub-culture to which the offenders most likely subscribe. (I'm speaking here of those offenders who can physically be identified as being of African descent, and not suggesting that all such examples of "curry-bashing" have been carried out by said type of offenders.)

    The syllogism Andrew employs is as follows:

    1. Race is responsible for culture, that is, behaviour.
    2. A certain type of socially unacceptable behaviour is disproportionately prevalent amongst people who share a certain "race".
    3. Since race is responsible for behaviour, it can be safely inferred that this particular example of a certain behaviour is evidence of what must be a general, inherent trait in members of this "race".

    The implicit premise is that race can be causally linked to behaviour and is not an incidental factor. It therefore follows that the "race" of the offenders ought to be revealed because this will apparently tell us more about this "race", rather than a particular sub-culture some young males are prone to imitating because of said sub-culture's own Bolt-like obsession with "race" in fashioning their sense of identity.

  13. Dude, you need your own blog!
    You won't get too many arguments from me on the above. I clearly don't spend as much time reading Bolt's columns as you do, but my impression has generally been that his racism is about culture rather than biology. I don't think he has a problem with non-white people per se, he just thinks it'd be better if they all behaved exactly like white people.

  14. LOL, no worries.

    Seems like you're doing some good work yourself.

    Catch ya later. ;)

  15. Couple of years back in Sydney racists thugs challenged 'Muslims' and now they are trying to do the same with Indians who primarily are Hindus & Sikhs. I Fear the day when Hindus, Muslims & Sikhs get together to hit back.....

  16. Lets do it what are we waiting for..a True Aussie will never be a thug...its few Bastards who are basically wogs who indulge in these things . let all true Aussies get together with the Might of Indian students & teach these criminals a leasson for rest of their lives.

  17. @ Anonymous (4:40pm), its a shame that your answer to racism seems to be more racism. I give you the Cronulla Riots as a prime example of how "True Aussies" are just as capable of thuggery as anyone else.

  18. I found your blog very informative about racism in Australia. I have a post on the subject - Racism is a kind of terrorism.

  19. Thanks Shree. I did read your post - thanks for the link by the way.

    I'm not sure if you have it right on the extent of racism in Australia though. I can't say for sure what is in the attackers' minds, but I do think that opportunism is a significant part of it. Certainly not all of it, and racism is obviously a part too.

    But I don't think Australia today is particularly more racist than India or any other country. The vast majority of people here have no problem with Indians or other immigrants.

    But I don't know - I like to think I have a good understanding of social phenomena, but I just don't get this.

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  22. Criminals are criminals, and do not represent a racist society.

    It is true that certain criminals may target people of subcontinental ethnicity as they're perceived as soft targets.

    Here's a good video to chill out on while you're actually wasting nervous energy chewing on what a dolt called Bolt spewed forth.


  23. Unfortunately a persons race does have alot to do with a persons type of behavior and how well they can adjust to modern society. Different races are more prone to violence than others. The calls not to include a persons race when crimes committed of that sort are disproportionately persons of a particular race in my opinion are leaving out a major part of the story....a very important one.

    In the USA, In a 1990 FBI study, African Americans committed 1200% more robberies than white people & 900% higher committed rates homicide.

    I have heard that alot of these recent violent crimes have been committed by people of African decent here in Melbourne against well mannered and studious Indian people.

    How many people have to suffer and die because of our Political Correctness? We owe it to all the good mannered Indian and Asian peoples who choose to live & study here peacefully who help our economy.

  24. @ Anonymous (4:47PM):

    About the involvement of Africans in attacks on Indians, there have been some involved but I don't think it is an especially high proportion. The attacks on taxi drivers in certain suburbs appear to have largely carried out by a particular gang of Sudanese or possibly other African young men. However, the other kinds of attacks that I covered in several posts here do not appear to be by Africans - a whole mix of ethnicities are involved.

    There is no validity in your argument for a genetic predisposition for violence. It is true that in the US, African Americans are disproportionally represented in crime statistics, but it has a great more to do with the historical legacy of discrimination, slavery and poverty.
    Similarly, indigenous Australian and American peoples both have very high rates of alcoholism and social problems, despite not being genetically similar - clearly the link is historical disposession.

    Of the African youths involved in criminal activities in Australia, it is overwhelmingly those who have come as refugees who have witnessed trauma and who have less access to education and income. Those who have come as students or through skilled migration channels - Kenyans, Nigerians, Zimbabweans, etc - have an almost negligible crime rate.

    Genetics are far less important than upbringing, environment and other societal factors.

    Now, can we please have less racist crap on this thread?

  25. Eurasian Sensation,
    You have a good blog – it shows your sincerity in improving understanding between diverse groups of people. May I compliment you for the wonderful work you are doing.

    Now to clarify some points - When you say “I'm not sure if you have it right on the extent of racism in Australia though…”, I suppose you are referring to my use of the words – “Australian racism”. It is used in a journalistic way, nothing more; the same way as “Islamic terror” is used the world over. This does not mean that by using it we brand all Muslims as terrorists. Violent acts targetting a community are always the work of a small wayward group of people.

    We in India have our share of madmen who target people based on religion, caste and even region; anything that makes someone different from our narrow definition of ‘us’. But it would not be correct to say India has a race problem.

    I do not in my post claim to have a first hand knowledge of the issue. I say it is from media reports reaching us in India. I have only given links to Australian sites (including your blog) and a post by Malcolm Knox in an English paper, which I found improve our understanding of what is happening in Australia today. You had recorded the trend in the increase in the number of attacks on Indians in your blog before it became big news.

    In today's world, as we try and make sense of such events, blogs like yours assume importance. Keep up the work.

  26. I think the evidence does not support the argument that 'vast majority' of Aussies are not racist. Please note that groups of 15 or more teenagers meet up and collectively decide to go out 'Curry Bashing'. That FIFTEEN teenagers can form such a group in sparsely populated areas, perhaps shows its not just a small fraction that is involved.

    Also, the near zero coverage by the Aussie media means such news does not favor their TRP, maybe since not enough people will watch or support such coverage. Perhaps more evidence that the problem is far from limited in a small minority.
    The Politicians repeatedly fail to even acknowledge these attacks
    Also the rather inadequate response of the police reeks of complicity in their ranks.

    I am no way saying Racism in Australia is all pervasive in Australian society but doesn't seem to me that its an insignificant few either.

  27. You make an interesting point, Rationalist. I will say though that it's hard to gauge the level of racism with what we currently know. Just playing devil's advocate here, but I wonder, to use your example, do they really meet up and decide to specifically bash an Indian? Do they decide to bash someone who looks like an easy target, who happens to be Indian? Do all of those 15 have the same racist intention, or are some just going along with the crowd?
    I'm not saying you are incorrect, but I also think the picture might be more complicated than easy labels of "racist" and "not racist".
    The current generation of 15-21 year olds seems to contain more violent and anti-social individuals than I have seen in my lifetime. I wonder if perhaps racism only but one manifestation of their behaviours, rather than the cause of it.

  28. Thanks for that blog,it is probably the most unjaundiced blog on this issue I have read,its a far cry from the pathetic so called socialist groups trying to pin the blame on whites for these attacks,well done.

  29. @ Frankie: Much appreciated. It seems like there are people on one side who want to blame everything on white racism; whereas on the other side there are those who are claiming its all people of immigrant background.

    Neither group is correct, and I think both are harmful to the debate.

  30. Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!

    Anthropology Dissertation

  31. Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!

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  32. This comment has been removed by the author.

  33. I've only just read Sushi Das' article - it is hilarious! A much more awesome response to the Inspector's 'advice' than mine was (I was simply agitated but no creativity came out of it).

  34. "Eurasian Sensation said...
    @ Anonymous (4:40pm), its a shame that your answer to racism seems to be more racism. I give you the Cronulla Riots as a prime example of how "True Aussies" are just as capable of thuggery as anyone else."

    Erm, Eurasian were you there?

    Because I was.

    I had been living in Cronulla for a number of years before this incident, and when it occured, (I was shopping at the time and came outside to see it first hand), I wasn't all that surprised. For years (I'm caucasian Australian btw) I had personally been verbally abused by "Muslem-looking youths"; my friends daughter raped by same gangs hanging in the area, who were specifically targeting aussies (or people they assumed were traditional white, blonde haired aussies even though they could've been Canadian for all they knew...). ANyway I'm deviating....

    When I saw said 'riots' occuring, it wasn't just aussies protesting it was ALL races - the whole community had finally had enough at these gangs coming into a very peaceful beach suburb and hurting/abusing the community. I saw italians and asians, and every other culture you can point a stick at, all stand side by side protesting. It wasn't just "Aussies". So, how do you define a True Aussie then? Isn't that in itself racist? What makes you then? Don't get that, sorry.

  35. Maybe Indians should look at themselves first before crying wolf elsewhere around the world:

    Please check this site:


  36. @ Anonymous (1:09pm):

    I used the phrase "True Aussies" in response to a previous commenter's use of it. It's not a phrase I prefer to use myself.

    Re: the Cronulla riots:
    Are you denying that thuggery took place there? I understand that the gathering of thousands at the beach was in response to a legitimate problem, but clearly it got out of hand and became something very ugly. This doesn't mean that everyone present was involved in thuggish behaviour, but clearly there was a lot of it going on.

    My comment was in response to another comment so please understand the context.

  37. @ Anonymous (1:25pm) - right, so India has problems so let's all just ignore any problems we have here.

    Please check this site and see how much of it applies to you:


  38. Eurasian, yes there was thuggish behaviour by the muslim gangs who bashed the white aussie surf life saver.

  39. @ Anon (February 19, 2010 7:50):

    Are you serious?

    Yes, there was thuggish behaviour by the Lebanese gangs. I'm not doubting that. But what no one can deny (apart from you, apparently) is that the response to the Lebanese got ridiculously out of hand, and became extremely thuggish as well. Not only did they target any young Lebanese men they found, they also attacked others who looked remotely like Lebanese. A young Italian man was chased by the mob, presumably because they mistook him for Lebanese. A couple of Bangladeshi students were attacked in their car by a mob of drunken Aussies at the beach that day.

    Look, I'm not trying to defend anything the Lebanese gangs did around that incident. But the response by the mob was wayyy over the top.

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  41. Im Australian 29 in Melbourne - My wife is from Hyderabad, India (born and raised), I have friends who are Indian, viet,chinese, malay, german, swedish, columbian, greek, italian, african and more...

    Not fussed about race - if your open to dealings with anyone you have the opportunity to be what i call a "culture sponge" - you should see the cook ups/international BBQ's that go on at our places... foods incredible.... convos great... diverse music and so much to talk about.....

    I have no time for simple minded redneck attitude..

    If you truly want to say your Australian - you'd embrace all that the country has to offer....

    Become a culture sponge! and don't bread this simple minded hatred into your kids..... kill racism with your generation....

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