Under pressure from the Indian government, Australia has finally informed New Delhi about action taken in 18 high profile cases of assaults against persons of ‘Indian appearance.’ According to the dossier submitted to the government, nearly half of those arrested so far or on the run are juvenile or under 18 years of age.
As the dossier lists attacks till January 5, it does not include many recent high profile cases including the murder of a youth from Punjab whose body has still not been sent back. Australia earlier resisted India’s demand to be informed about the cases involving Indians because it claimed that appearance was a limited indicator of ethnicity and the person could originate from about 20 countries such as Mauritius, Fiji and Malaysia. However, what tilted the balance was the conversation External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna had with his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith last week.
According to sources, Mr. Krishna insisted on Australia giving a detailed report on the action taken in cases of violence against Indians. The Ministry of External Affairs did not subscribe to the Australian hypothesis that appearance was a limited indicator of ethnicity and pointed out that the attacks on Indian nationals were too many to be explained away with such arguments.
Of the 18 high profile cases against persons of Indian appearance between March 2008 and January 5 this year, two were run over by train and no foul play was suspected. Three cases remain unsolved and 33 have been arrested in the remaining 13 cases.
The involvement of juveniles begins from the first high profile case that took place in Melbourne in March last year when two men of Indian appearance were assaulted and robbed at a railway station. Four of the five alleged offenders arrested by the police had to be taken to the Children’s Court as they were minors. Two months later in May, all four who assaulted an Indian on a train turned out to be juveniles. The same month, the two who gate crashed an Indian party and then assaulted some of those present when they were asked to leave, were under 18 years of age.
In June last year, the two who knocked a man unconscious and then robbed him were also under 18 years of age. In November last year, an Indian was stabbed 14 times after he offered 20 cents to two men who demanded cash. One of them has been arrested and found to be a juvenile, according to the dossier prepared by the Victorian Police.
At the same time, the police admitted to not having solved cases that were reported six months ago. Like the May 2009 victim of an assault and robbery by two men or the assault on an Indian student a month later.
While giving a breakdown of action taken in cases of assault and robbery against people of Indian appearance, Australia has made it clear that the dossier is not a definitive account of all the cases against Indians. This is because, according to Canberra, appearance is based on the subjective assessment of the attending police and recorded only for “operational purposes.”