Friday, June 5, 2009

More Indian students attacked, and temple vandalised

This week has brought more cases of racist violence against Indians in Victoria.

On 2nd of June, student Nardeep Singh, 20, was approached by a group of men as he walked through a carpark at Chisholm TAFE College in Dandenong. They initially asked for cigarettes, then money. When he refused, Singh was slashed with what appeared to be a box-cutter. Police do not believe the attack to be racially motivated. Which may be true, but as these kind of attacks mount up, it may be hard to cling to that mantra.

One incident that was definitely racist in nature was the vandalism of a gurdwara (Sikh temple) in Shepparton in northern Victoria. Racist graffiti was painted around the premises, including swastikas, while eggs were thrown at the temple and a fence smashed by a car.

On Saturday May 30, in the popular nightspot of Chapel Street in Melbourne's inner south, student Ashish Sood and three friends were taunted by a group of 15 youngsters who then attacked the. Sood was apparently struck with a metal object and was admitted to hospital with minor injuries.

The Hindu Times also reported that on Wednesday (June 3) another Indian was attacked at Newport train station by men wielding cricket and baseball bats.

It is perhaps understandable then that Indians are starting to take the law into their own hands. At St Albans train station,

A group of 100 to 150 mostly Indian men meet outside the station. The group waits at the station every night from 9.30 p.m. until the last train. Then it is divided into smaller groups that are assigned to street corners to prevent attacks.

It is hard to blame them. Anecdote after anecdote has emerged that indicates that the police response has been severely inadequate. This is not solely the fault of the police force, who are underfunded and understaffed. I just hope that the Indian response in St Albans does not lead to vigilantism. I bet it terrifies some of the locals to have this small desi army hanging around the station!

Meanwhile NSW Premier Nathan Rees has stated that there is no pattern of violence against Indian students in his state. Sure, there seems to be less of it than in Melbourne, but he's likely to get an argument from community leader Yadu Singh, who claims an average of 20 attacks are happening every month in Sydney.

Some Indian Australians who have been settled here for longer periods are taking a different perspective on the racism angle. Raj Natarajan of the United Indian Associations of NSW has stated that Australia is a tolerant multicultural country and their children do feel safe. He questions whether it is the behaviour of the new arrivals that is contributing to the violence.

Which sounds pretty weak in his lack of solidarity with fellow Indians, but there is a point in there. I don't think you can so much blame the Indian students' "behaviour", but as I have stated before, newly arrived students are more likely to be riding trains at night and be in other situations which have an increased risk to safety. The more established Indian community here is well-educated and relatively wealthy; they are less likely to be using public transport, working in higher-risk jobs or living in certain areas.

So I guess the key is to be wealthy, don't be different, and don't leave your house unless absolutely necessary. Easy, right?

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