Ritesh K Srivastava
The ongoing racial attacks on the Indian students living in Australia are surely a stigma on so-called civilised and progressive Australian society, which has so far failed to prevent the abuse of foreign students and ease tension.
It has probably been over a month and there seems to be no end to the string of violent racial attacks on the Indians living there. With every passing day, the condition of Indian students, as well as other non-Australians residing in the country, is becoming pathetic.
Indians have been attacked in their houses, stabbed while travelling alone, assaulted on Railway Stations, robbed and humiliated whenever the racist elements got the opportunity to do so. And if this was not enough, there were reports of petrol bombs being hurled on private vehicles of Indians.
No one is sure as to when one becomes the next victim of a racial slur and probably this could be the reason as to why Indians Down Under have now started moving in groups. From peaceful protests and demonstrations aimed at highlighting the sticky situation and pressurising the Australian government to take action against the culprits, Indians have now started retaliating by taking law and order in their hands.
This became evident as a group of Indian students recently stabbed a 20-year old Australian youth, when he hurled racial abuses on them in the western suburbs of Melbourne.
The retaliatory act by the Indian students has come as a shock for every one especially the Australians, who now fear that this could worsen the situation and set a bad precedent to more violent clashes in the days to come.
Till date, 14 such cases of attacks on Indians living in Australia have been reported in less than a month and the Australian law enforcement agencies are still groping in dark.
However, the number of unreported cases can be in hundreds since majority of those who must be looking for a Permanent Resident status, did not want to be embroiled in legal hassles and thus avoid approaching the authorities.
As of now, the government in Australia seems to be caught in a fix as Indians continue to live with fear and tension and the situation has not calmed.
It was only after New Delhi expressed grave concerns over the safety and security of its citizens, Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, apologized and assured the safety and well being of Indians there.
What has been more frustrating is to see how reluctant the Australian authorities have been in accepting racial motives behind such gory attacks on the Indian students.
The diplomatic pressure exerted by New Delhi bore fruit when China and other nations joined it in condemning the callous attack on Indians.
The Australians finally accepted the bitter reality of racism and warned a zero-tolerance against those involved in such racism-related incidents.
I am not blaming the Australian government for its slow response and reluctance in accepting that racism still prevailed in the country and Australians still discriminated between the Whites and the Blacks or Browns or whatever.
After all, it’s the matter of Australian national pride and self-esteem and accepting the fact can be seen as national disgrace.
The situation is deplorable in New South Wales, Victoria and its capital Melbourne, where Indians reside in large numbers and dozens of such attacks have taken place.
Indians under the aegis of The Federation of Indian Students of Australia have pledged to fight back and intensify their crusade against racial discrimination. Indians in large numbers have demonstrated their anger and displeasure through a series of protests and rallies in the worst-affected Melbourne and other areas.
In a bid to restore his country’s reputation, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced a slew of measures including increased patrolling, quick response to any incident of racial abuse, deploying extra police forces in sensitive areas, public places and educational institutions.
Although, the Australian government has now swung into action to prevent the abuse of foreign students, there seems to be no end to the racial violence. Community groups in Melbourne and Sydney have appealed to the Indian community to have patience and co-operate with the law enforcing agencies. It is unlikely that these efforts will heal the festering wounds of Indians any time soon.
Further, investigations into such cases have revealed that teenage Australians with criminal antecedent have attacked Indians bringing to fore a hidden wave of hostility.
It is heart breaking to see several families, concerned over the safety of its family members, have started calling them back from Australia or many well-settled Indian Australians going on long vacations.
These attacks have also shattered the dreams of hundreds of aspiring Indian students, who had almost finalised their visit to the country for higher education.
Whatever one says, the attacks have caused irreparable damage to Australia`s multi-billion-dollar education business amid concerns that the number of overseas students coming to Australia for a positive and enriching experience, might see a decline.
However, categorising all Australians ‘racists’ and blaming them solely for the spate of attacks on Indian students, will not be appropriate. At this juncture, apart from the diplomatic efforts, the Indian government must also take steps towards sensitizing all those planning an overseas visit with the cultural diversity and way of the living in their destined nations.
The Indians must take lessons from an old saying that “While in Rome, do as Romans do” and adopt and accommodate with the fast-track life of their chosen state.
It would be in the best interest of the Indians living in Australia if they learn to respect the Australian culture and assimilate themselves in the Australian society. By getting sensitised to the Australian way of living, by avoiding further provocations and fomenting more troubles for themselves and by being more generous, the Indians can create an amicable environment for their entire community.