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Attacks on Indian students: Xenophobic and racist Australia?


The image of Australia as a student's paradise has taking a severe beating with the recent reported attacks on Indian students. Other things apart, Australia cannot afford to let the attacks continue. Indians constitute half of the foreign students in the country. The Australian international education business is estimated to be at 15 billion dollars.

No wonder the Rudd government is bending backwards as the Indian government frowns and the Indian media scream at the 'racist attacks.' The attacks are not something new. India's trade minister, Kamal Nath, raised concern about students' safety with his Australian counterpart, Simon Crean, in Melbourne on May 20 last year. Mr Crean said he and Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith wrote to premiers on July 10 conveying the Indian concerns.

The Age reports says, it is also true that many perpetrators of the robberies have uttered racial taunts — and the need for improved security and a stronger police presence is evident regardless of whether some of the attacks are racially motivated. It is not only Indian students but residents' associations that have called for more police patrols in the west of Melbourne. Meaning this is not pure racism, but a law and order problem.

The paper further tries to defend its country. There is no doubt that Indian students in Melbourne feel threatened, and there is evidence that some of the attacks on Indian students have been racially motivated. But it does not follow from either of these facts that there is widespread hostility to Indians in Australia, that racism is increasing, or that Melbourne is a more dangerous city than, say, Mumbai.

The matter has not only galvanised the Indian opposition parties, it has given the Opposition leader in Australia a handle to beat the Rudd government. The Opposition Leader said the assaults of young students had been going on for three years already, without any government intervention. “Sadly, the issue is not new – we’ve been raising these concerns for nearly three years and the problem’s got worse, not better,” Mr Baillieu said.

But is the Indian media going overboard (like they did during 26/11 last year) in raising the issue? The Times Now channel has started updates with the words "Racism Beyond Shame" in large capital letters. Its news ticker at the bottom of the screen said "Australian bloggers spew racist venom against Indians".

"Australia, land of racism" screamed a headline in the influential Economic Times yesterday, and some news blog sites were swamped with comments accusing Australians of racism.

Is Australia a racial country? A blog in prominent newspaper The Australian does not think so. It says,.....

Australia, for the most part is a tolerant and accepting society. We have our problems, but these are sorted out organically over time. For every ugly racial flare up in Australia there are hundreds of thousands of success stories. Racial tensions have exploded in Cronulla, Redfern and Palm Island in recent times, but these are mere trifles compared to the incendiary urban warfare seen in the UK, France, Germany and the US.
The evidence that Australia is a racist society simply does not exist.

But it does admit there are opinions that say the opposite.

Greg Barns is a former Liberal Party apparatchik. He was disendorsed as the Liberal candidate in the Tasmanian seat of Denison in 2002 due to his strident criticism of the Howard Government’s policy on refugees and quite frankly, more power to him but his comments published in Online Opinion on 22 December, 2005 beggar belief.
“Australia is a backwater, a racist and inward-looking country that turns its back on adventure and the opportunity to do better; a country that has rejected leaders who provide the chance for a multiracial, multicultural and independent nation to prosper in the region where it is, Asia-Pacific.”

“Let’s admit it. Australia has become a pigsty. The majority of voters have succumbed either to materialism or to the underbelly of their soul, an underbelly that gives free rein to fear, racism and xenophobia. This is the land of missed opportunity, the land where the alternative government is made up of populist conservatives such as Julia Gillard, sometimes touted as a leader, or Kevin Rudd, whose capacity for imagination and vision seems severely limited.”

Racism does exist in the country. In December, 2005, White supremacists near Cronulla Beach in Sydney, Australia and the nearby suburb of Maroubra attacked cars with baseball bats and stabbed at least one man. The violence began after a rumour that two white lifeguards were beaten by Lebanese youths was spread via cell phone text messages. The mobs also clashed with police and attacked ambulances.

The present attacks on Indian students stems from the malice of Australia's racist and xenophobic elements who can't stomach the fact that hardworking and intelligent Indians are walking away with degrees and better jobs.

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