Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Further attacks on Indians make world headlines

Yesterday, around 4000 Indian students staged a protest rally outside Flinders Street station, blockading one of the Melbourne's busiest intersections. Their anger is easily understandable - the number of attacks on Indians in Australia in recent months has been astonishing.
There have been 3 attacks on Indians in Melbourne this week, that I know of, and probably more that have not been reported. Sydney is not immune either.

There is a widespread view among the Indian community that the response from the Victorian Government and police force has been inadequate, possibly even a reflection of racism towards Indians. I don't really buy this angle (though I do agree that policing has been slack in a number of recent cases), but the arrest of 18 of the demonstrators, and unconfirmed reports that some police punched people in the crowd, will do little to dampen this speculation.

It's now a issue of global interest. I wish Melbourne could get this much publicity for its nicer aspects. The Indian media, as you'd expect, are all over this, but you can find articles on the attacks in online media from Korea, the UK, Canada, the Middle East and elsewhere.

Veteran Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan has weighed into the matter, turning down an honorary doctorate due to be awarded to him by Queensland University of Technology, since Australia was guilty of such an indignity toward Indians.

Australian PM Kevin Rudd, in damage-control mode, has spoken to his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh, reassuring that the problem will be dealt with and that this country bears no ill will towards Indians.

A brief scour of Youtube reveals many comments about Australia and the situation. Anyone who has ever read Youtube comments will know that it tends to bring the most ignorant knuckleheads out of the woodwork, and there's plenty of stupidity on offer. Many of the commentators are Indians and others who see the best answer to racism is with more racism - insulting Australians as ignorant racist convicts and so forth. Seriously, does this help? All it achieves is to rile up Australian idiots who return the racism, resulting in a comment debate over which country is the sh**test. How enlightening. But the reality is, that's how many people think.

The violence itself is bad enough. But there will be other consequences for this. Australia's reputation, and Melbourne's reputation as a tolerant multicultural city, is being dragged through the mire. No good can come of this - money from tourism, investment and international student placement is sure to exit the country and go elsewhere.

I fear another dire outcome as well. To combat the perception that they are a "soft target", will Indians and other South Asians start carrying weapons for self-defence, or even forming gangs of their own? South Asians have in many ways been a "model minority" in Australia. While Canada, for example, has problems with Punjabi gangs, this is almost unknown in Australia. But racism and victimisation may help breed such a culture amongst Indian-Australians - I sincerely hope it doesn't, for their sakes and ours.

It's getting real out here, people. Maybe I have a faulty memory, but the Australia I grew up in not so long ago was a relatively safe place. Today? I'm not so sure.


  1. Can certain media commentators be held responsible for helping create a climate in which attacks on people like Indians seems almost like the logical next step to take?

  2. Anonymous, I'm not sure which commentators you are referring to. Who are they and what have they said? Please enlighten us.