Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Indians speak out on Australian attacks

Rally against attacks on South Asians in Melbourne - 31/5/2009
There have been large rallies against the attacks in Australian cities

The recent wave of assaults on Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney has been denounced as racism by Australia's Indian community.

The attacks have caused outrage in India, and prompted Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to reassure the Indian government that Australia is not a racist country.

Here, Australian residents from South Asian backgrounds share their experiences of living in a multi-ethnic society and give their verdict on whether Australia is a racist country.

ATTACKS 'WERE RACIST'

Gagandeep Kaur, a university lecturer living in Sydney, thinks the police are turning a blind eye to the problem.

Indian students are going through a rough time at the moment. I witnessed the Harris Park episode [the scene of one attack]. The student was ready to give a statement, but the police didn't record it as he had failed to get the registration number of the attackers' car.


Police are patrolling Harris Park and helicopters are also being used. Many people comment that it is waste of taxpayers' money. But they do not understand that these students pay hefty fees and taxes, more so than the whingeing locals.

Victorian police says that the Indians attract attackers by flaunting their iPods and laptops. But every second person has iPods and laptops, so why do these attacks happen only to Indian people?

Education is the third largest export of Australia. If the government cannot ensure the safety of the students who pay the fees, then they should give up the education trade.



Paul Prasad, a manager in the telecoms industry, decided to return to India after feeling he was bullied by his Australian colleagues.

Before going to Australia I lived and worked in Saudi Arabia, Holland and all major cities of India, but I got the worst work place experience from Australia.
Indian students rally against racism in Sydney on June 7, 2009
Australia's South Asian community has vowed to continue protests

My employer and management were very supportive but my colleagues hated me and bullied me. They created an unbearable environment just because I got the highest increment in performance appraisal.

I left Australia when I was earning Aus $110,000 [US$ 80,020] per annum - without having a job in India - and I have no regrets.

I don't think it's a race problem. If it was, people from Africa and the Middle East would be affected too. The root cause of all this is the sudden rise of the number of Indian people in all levels of society. Middle-aged Australians are worried about losing their jobs to young and educated immigrants from India.

Australians have to understand that their country is a home to many nationalities and their economy is doing well with the support of immigrants.

The government should be tough on people who spread hatred and violence in the society.

All national channels in India give much attention to the incidents in Australia. I think it's a good thing. The average Indian likes Australia very much and it is an ambition of middle class families to send their kids to Australia for higher education.



Surya Setiyaputra, a PhD student from Indonesia, points out that it's not just Indians who suffer racist attitudes.

I am a councillor in one of the student organisations that supported and organised the rally in Sydney last Sunday.
Surya Setiyaputra
Racism is truly alive in Australia
Surya Setiyaputra

I listened to the account of the Indian students' leader with horror as he told us about the fear experienced by his fellow countrymen.


All the Indians who live around [the Sydney suburbs of] St Mary and Harris Park area, he told us, have to run all the way to their homes as soon as their train stops after coming from work late at night, or else they risk being harassed by gangs of youths. They have to do this every single day.

I believe that racism is truly alive in Australia and it's not just the Indians who suffer from it. People from other countries and backgrounds have also been victims.

In my view, the Australian federal and local governments have contributed to the separation of local and international students and have empowered people with racist views.

For example, international students in Victoria are not entitled to travel concessions, unlike their domestic counterparts, creating divisions among students.



Uttam Niraula, a reporter in Sydney, says he has experienced the discrimination faced by foreign students.

I am certain there is racism in Australia. It's everywhere - on the bus, on the streets, in the police station. I feel sad that people from different skin colour are not mixing in the community.

I've been here for six months. I was planning to settle down in Australia and get permanent residency. But after coming here I realised that India is far better for me, because I can live there with dignity.

There is huge discrimination against international students. Australia has granted visas for hundreds of thousands of international students, but if you see the living conditions of many South Asian students, you'll be shocked.

I think the Rudd government should take immediate action to improve the environment. The students' movement is very powerful and unaddressed anger can lead to more violence.


ATTACKS 'NOT A RACE PROBLEM'

Anoop Chopra, a teacher in Perth, thinks that the real reasons behind the attacks have nothing to do with racism.

Australia is a great place to live. I have seen racism among very few Australians but have never experienced it directly.

Indians are a relatively new migrant community in Australia and the local population is still ignorant of our culture, religion and values.

In spite of that they make a genuine effort to welcome us in their homes and make us feel comfortable in their country.

When an Australian is bashed, we call it a crime. When an Indian is bashed, we call it a racist crime.

Anoop Chopra
The so-called racist attacks on Indian students have been blown out of proportion by the Indian media
Anoop Chopra
The so-called racist attacks on Indian students have been blown out of proportion by the Indian media. The real reasons have nothing to do with racism.

Over the last few years Australia has taken a substantial number of students who otherwise would have gone to the UK or the USA. It is a deliberate attempt by some selfish and unscrupulous businessmen to discredit Australia for their own vested interest.

Or could it be that India feels a bit spiteful that Australia is not sending its team for a Davies Cup match to India due to security concerns?



Karthik is a PhD student living in Melbourne. In his view, the Indian students have failed to get integrated into Australian society.

I've been living in Melbourne for the past four years. I certainly don't believe that Australians are racists and that Indians are victims of any kind of racist abuse. This issue is being blown out of proportion.


There's been a huge increase in the number of Indian students recently. They don't mix with Australian people and the only Australians they know are drunk teenagers or homeless racists in the streets or on the trains. That's how they get a wrong impression about Australia as a whole.

The crime rate in Melbourne is high. Most of these crimes are petty robberies that happen late at night. Because many Indian students have part-time jobs that finish late in the evening, they often become victims of these petty crimes.

And when it happens, the news spreads very fast among Indian people and they get enraged quickly as they don't really know the nicer side of Australian community.

Many Indians who have lived here for a while will have a completely different perspective.


BBC NEWS REPORT.

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