With incidents of attacks on Indians here on the rise, many community members feel the root cause of such assaults is not race but the students’ financial conditions that force them to be out at night for odd jobs to meet high cost of living in Australia.
Many Indians in Australia feel students from India should be “alert” and “careful” if they are travelling at odd hours in the night. “It is not the race that is the problem but it is their hard financial conditions,” Ravi Bhatia, Primus CEO and a leading community member, said reacting to the latest attack in which a 22-year old Sikh was attacked while he was asleep at a bus stop.
“What makes you sleep at that time at a bus stop? Are you not inviting problems by doing so?” he asked.
“Students as migrants have some obligations also and they should take basic safety measures,” he said.
Srinivas Vasan of Federation of Indian Association of Victoria (FIAV) said Australia is the most multicultural society and has allowed people from all over the world to live here peacefully.
Over 30 Indian students were attacked in various Australian cities from June to September.
“We have been urging students on some do’s and don’ts like organising their late night travels, not carrying cash and being careful and alert. If you are working late nights and travelling odd hours in public transport you are expected to be alert and careful,” Mr. Vasan said.
Echoing his views, Neeraj Nanda, Editor of a local Indian newspaper who conducted a survey on what could be the cause of such attacks, said majority of Indians settled here felt that their own countrymen were largely responsible for the attacks.
“Talking to many families I found all most everyone felt that Indians were to be blamed for inviting problems.
They refuse to integrate in Australian society that sorts of annoys the localites,” he said.
While Australia still tops as a safest destination for many Indian students, for many of them things are not as rosy as painted by their agents back home and interestingly, there has been a pattern noticed in such incidents.
Most of the students in vocational courses hail from rural parts of India. With little or no financial support they pick odd jobs like in security, cleaner, at petrol stations or drive a cab late at night.
To add to the problem, they rent out in cheap and crime-prone areas and use public transport at odd hours which make them highly prone to such attacks.
“We have many Indian students who work odd hours and do not sleep properly for days as they work odd hours,” said Elizabeth Drozd, Victorian multiculturalism commissioner and a university teacher.
“They attend their classes in the morning and work late nights to meet out their living,” Ms. Drozd said, adding many of these students feel so tired and they sleep anywhere.
However, Gautam Gupta of Federation of Indian Student Association disagrees with the view. He said if someone sleeping at late night at a bus stop was risky then half of India was at high risk.
Mr. Bhatia said like Indians even Chinese student population is huge here but majority of Chinese belong to affluent families and they can afford expensive education and living.
“Chinese do not become such targets as they are from rich families and can easily afford the expenses of living and studying here. Aspiring students should be able to fully fund course fee and not rely on a part-time work wages,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Australian government has suspended almost 200 agents operating in a number of countries for lodging online student visa applications because of evidence of fraud or poor approval rates.
Keywords: Attacks, Indians, race, Australia, Ravi Bhatia, Primus CEO, Srinivas Vasan, Federation of Indian Association of Victoria, Neeraj Nanda, Editor, Elizabeth Drozd, Victorian multiculturalism commissioner, Chinese