Monday, January 11, 2010

A big, nasty week for Indians in Australia

I been busy recently, so haven't posted this stuff earlier, but Indians in Australia are front page news again, for a number of different reasons this week.

First was the tragic stabbing death of Nitin Garg in West Footscray.

Then came the inevitable hysteria of the media back in India. This included the following cartoon in the Delhi Mail Today newspaper depicting an Australian police officer as a KKK member:

Have they gone too far? Of course. But I understand it. From their perception, attacks on Indian students go on unabated, and the police bleat the same mantra about none of them being racially motivated. Which may possibly be true, but perception is important, and the perception is that the police would deny racism even if a perpetrator had a T-shirt that said "I hate Indians and want to bash them" on it.

And besides, I've seen the hysteria that occurs in the Australian media when one of our nationals gets in trouble overseas. (Witness the derogatory pronouncements about corrupt and deceitful Asian countries when an Australian woman was arrested for stealing a small item from a bar in Thailand, or when Schapelle Corby was convicted of drug smuggling in Indonesia.) So while the Indian press clearly loves the drama a bit too much, our media is hardly immune to it.

Also appearing in the Herald Sun this week was an article by Gautam Gupta (spokesman for the Federation of Indian Students of Australia), entitled Why Indians are terrified after the death of Nitin Garg. Gupta writes a worthy article, then loses credibility with his last sentence (blaming racism for Asian graduates having less chance of finding employment than non-Asians - forgetting that language skills would surely be a far bigger factor). However he makes an important point - that the public, eager to deny the Indian complaints as overreaction, do not see the full story, such as the numerous cases of racial abuse that do not make the papers, but add to the feeling many Indians have of being under threat.

This is surely reflected in new statistics released this week showing the number of people applying for student visas to Australia has dropped by 20%, and by 46% from India.

And two other incidents involving Indian victims have made news this week. One was the stabbing murder of Ranjodh Singh in the NSW country town of Griffith, which police have linked to a possible dispute over pay with two other men from the subcontinent. The other was the apparent attack on 29-year-old Jaspreet Singh in Essendon outside his house, when 4 men allegedly set him alight. Police are investigating; there is speculation around the place that it was accidentally self-inflicted while trying to torch the car.


  1. Regarding the cartoon, of course they haven't gone too far. Political cartoons have always been about exagerration (or, at times, succinct accuracy), it's the whole point of them. It's satire, not libel.

    The hysteria is a different issue. Tabloid is as tabloid does, regardless of the country. There's not much you can do to combat tabloid journalism, particularly that of another country, except for 'be unsensational' and hope they start looking elsewhere.

  2. "Gupta writes a worthy article, then loses credibility with his last sentence (blaming racism for Asian graduates having less chance of finding employment than non-Asians - forgetting that language skills would surely be a far bigger factor)."

    Most Indian students who are in grad programs at universities in Australia are well educated and went to English-medium schools; they have a perfectly fine grasp of the English language. (Admittedly those who study at those shady 'institutions of management' often do speak subpar English.) Either way, the ANU study he cites showed that just having a non-Caucasian name on your resume makes it less likely for you to get an interview.

    Otherwise, completely agree with everything you said. As a member of the Aust-Indian community, plenty of people are terrified-- after all, when people are being set on fire in the street, things have gotten pretty damn bad.

  3. @ Kamala - not saying racism is not a factor. But in a competitive market for jobs, English language ability can make a big difference when choosing between candidates. And many Indians who speak perfectly fine English, might still not be as good as a local-born native speaker.

    I've heard about the ANU study, but I didn't realise that was the one he was referring to. (As I seem recall, that study was about people with the same qualifications but with Asian names not getting asked in for interviews?) He didn't express himself well when he mentioned it, and I think it made him seem like he didn't really know what he was talking about.

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