I express profound grief over the gruesome murder of Nitin Garg and other attacks on Indian students in Australia. It is indeed sad to note that a student who came here to study and make a career became a victim of mindless hatred. Members of the Pakistani community are saddened by the tragedy. Being part of the same “brown” race, we share the pain of the Indian community. It is time the Australian government, instead of making loud statements, mobilised its resources to secure foreign students as well as other members of the public.
The painful fact is that in Australia, a rich country, for some unexplained reason the police force is under-funded and under-manned. Any casual observer can note that no policeman is in sight on Melbourne’s roads, trains, and other hotspots. I agree with Ted Baillieu, the Opposition leader in Victoria, who has called for strengthening the police and tougher sentences for criminals.
The attack on Jaspreet Singh, who was set afire in Melbourne, is shocking. The Australian government can no longer say the attacks against Indians are not racist. It is the Australian universities that invite students from India to study in their country. It is, therefore, their government’s duty to ensure that foreign students are safe.
As the number of attacks on Indians in Australia increases, the insecurity of students there also increases. The lament of Nitin Garg’s mother that she would not have allowed him to return to Australia after his last visit to India had she known he would be murdered will surely have an impact on parents who work hard and make huge sacrifices to send their children abroad for studies. Instead of merely expressing their condolences to the family of the victim, the governments of both countries should take effective steps to end the attacks so that no family faces such a sad moment in future.
Parents borrow heavily to send their children abroad for studies in the fond hope that their future will be better in material terms. In order to pay off their debts, Indian students work night shifts. Employers prefer them because they agree to work on lesser terms. They become more vulnerable to attacks because they work late hours. At the same time, one cannot deny that race is an important factor that emboldens criminals because they think the police will be slow on the trail.
Indian students who work during late evenings to finance their studies fall prey to attacks by armed hoodlums who roam freely on the streets of Melbourne and other cities. Education, which used to be a thriving industry in Australia, has been affected by the continuing attacks on Indians. Fears about personal safety will soon force students to seek alternative destinations for higher education.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Canberra should be more sensitive to the safety of immigrants, particularly Indian students, instead of just treating them as ‘cash cows.’ They have become vulnerable targets for some time now. Among people of ethnic heterogeneity, racial tensions cannot be ruled out. At the same time, whipping up jingoistic hysteria will only prove counter-productive.
Many factors may be responsible for the three attacks in 10 days. But social disorganisation — lack of solidarity and cohesion, and the absence of a shared sense of community among Indian residents — is perhaps the foremost cause. How is it that people from other Asian countries do not fall victims to such attacks? The government should study the support system evolved by those countries.
I am an Indian hailing from Tiruchi. I came to Australia for higher studies. I studied and lived in Melbourne and Perth. Australia is not blatantly racist, though racism exists in a subtle form beneath the surface. But this is the case with all developed nations.
If Australia is racist, why are only Indian “students” attacked and not Indians settled in the country? What about people of Indian origin born and raised here? And why are Sri Lankans, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis not victims of such attacks? The truth is no one is 100 per cent safe in Australia. There are many who, under the influence of alcohol and drugs, go about bashing, mugging and even killing randomly.
This is in response to the letter which says similar attacks are imminent in the U.S. (Jan. 11). I have lived for six years in the U.S. I do not find the behaviour of Indians worse than that of any other community. Nor do I see a significant change in the attitude of the locals towards us. There may be some cases of parents of immigrants taking up part-time jobs. They are microscopic compared to the size of the Indian workforce. In any case, if somebody works without a valid visa, it is an issue to be tackled by the authorities. It cannot be an excuse for launching racial attacks.
One thing is clear. New Delhi should work with the media and the governments of the U.S., Australia, the UAE, the U.K., Malaysia and other countries where Indians are in significant numbers, and devise a comprehensive plan to fight hate.