Vowing not to tolerate any racial attacks against Indians, Premier John Brumby of the Australian State of Victoria which has witnessed most of these assaults, said on Sunday there is “a small and ignorant minority” of people who engage in such “repugnant” actions.
“Victorians abhor and condemn racism. That’s because our state is built on migration and cultures from around the world. But there is a small and ignorant minority of people who are racist,” Mr. Brumby said in an interview to PTI.
Acknowledging that Indians have fallen victim to violent crimes here, he said “no matter how small in number, any crime motivated by racism is outrageous and won’t be tolerated.”
“When an Indian family decides to send a son or daughter to another country, they place their trust in that country. I know Victorians would take that trust very seriously,” said Mr. Brumby, who is under pressure to tackle the crisis.
Insisting that Victoria, and indeed Australia, was not a racist society, he said his Government has repeatedly condemned any racist behaviour — violent or verbal.
“This behaviour is by a very small minority of people whose actions are repugnant to most Australians,” Mr. Brumby said.
However, he said the sad fact of any big urban city is that there is crime which can impact any member of the public.
“I and the Government acknowledge that. The police acknowledge that... I have always said that where it is a racially-based motivated attack we condemn that in the strongest possible terms,” he said.
In a damage-control exercise, the Brumby Government has announced a slew of measures to curb the attacks, but there is a feeling that not enough has been done as the offenders have been leniently dealt with by the law.
Mr. Brumby also claimed that Victoria has the toughest anti-knife regime in Australia. “Victoria Police investigates all matters reported to them equally, and the justice system deals with all people equally.”
Over 100 incidents of attacks on Indians, including racial, have come to light since May 2009 in Australia.
Twenty one-year-old student Nitin Garg, who was stabbed to death here, was the first victim of such assaults this year.
Police were also scrambling to crack the case of the unnatural death of three-year-old Indian boy Gurshan, whose body was found on Thursday six hours after his disappearance from a house rented by his parents in a Melbourne suburb.
With Indians being seen as soft targets, Victoria Police chief Simon Overland had recently come up with an advice asking them to “look poor” to avoid attacks.
Despite criticism of Mr. Overland’s remarks by the community members and student bodies, Mr. Brumby stood by his top policeman. “I understand that Police Commissioner Overland’s remarks were taken out of context.”
“Overland was reflecting the common sense advice given by both Australian and Indian governments to students and others coming to Australia — not to ostentatiously display expensive items, avoid dark and lonely places late at night,” he said.