Saturday, January 9, 2010

Stop Violence Against Indians in Australia!

There has been a slew of apparently racially-motivated attacks targeting Indians, resulting in the tragic stabbing death of a young Indian student Nitin Garg in Australia this week.

Last year also saw several vicious attacks on Indians, including the use of a petrol bomb thrown at an Indian young man sitting in his house, sending shock waves throughout the Indian community in Australia. Protest marches were organized in both Melbourne and Sydney. Spontaneous street rallies happened in Harris Park, a suburb of western Sydney with a large Indian population. The protests drew attention of the international media, with coverage in India especially widespread and critical of Australia. Representatives of the Indian government met with the Australian government officials to express concerns and demand that Indians be protected. The Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, expressed regret and called for the attackers to be brought to justice. And yet, there seems to be no end in sight. Just yesterday, another student Jaspreet Singh was set on fire and he suffered 20 per cent burns including on his arms, chest and face.

Indian students make up the second largest group, after the Chinese, of foreign students in Australia for their graduate education. From 2004 to 2009 the number of Indians studying in Australia rose from 30,000 to 97,000 with 45,000 of these living in Melbourne, 32,000 in Adelaide and the remainder in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, according to a Wikipedia entry. Some come from the rural parts of India, with most coming to Australia to seek permanent residency. The cost of living in Australian cities has made it necessary for many of these students to live in cheaper and more distant suburbs, where there is an increased risk of encountering violent crime.

In spite of the regularity of brutal attacks singling out Indian immigrants, the Australian authorities continue to downplay, even deny the racial angle. Unless such crimes are treated as hate crimes and seriously prosecuted and punished, it is likely that the crime wave will continue, and probably get worse.

These attacks are a reminder to all South Asians and others of foreign origins living in the West, including North America, Europe and Australia, that intolerance, racism and xenophobia are alive and well in many parts of the world. Xenophobia, in particular, continues to rear its ugly head in various forms, including antisemitism and Islamophobia. We must condemn it in all its various forms in our own best interest.

Let me conclude with a famous poem by Pastor Martin Niemoeller:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak out.


Related Links:

Peace, Not Prejudice at Berkeley

Quality of Higher Education in South Asia

Pakistani-American Elected Mayor in Washington

Edible Arrangements--Pakistani-American's Success Story

Pakistani-Americans in Silicon Valley

HDF Fundraiser in Silicon Valley For Pakistan

Pakistani Diaspora in America

Asian-Americans: Contemporary Trends and Issues

New York City's Pakistani Population

Pakistani-Americans in NYC

NED Alumni Convention Draws 400

NEDians Convention 2007 in Silicon Valley

Muslim Demographics in America

Pakistanis in America

Pakistani-Americans Wikipedia Entry

Illegal Immigration From India to America Hits 125%

Pakistanis Find US Easier Fit than Britain

Portrait of a Giving Community

India's Washington Lobby

Occupations of Pakistani-Americans--New York Times

13 comments:

Mayraj said...

Hate crimes are hate crimes and the Australians being more evolved than the Indians should come down hard on the issue. Mean while India is a virtual factory of communal hate crimes, so I find their complaints when it comes to Australia a trifle ironic.

Anonymous said...

Good writing Riaz sb.

I agree what Mayraj has said, these crimes are limited to a particular area only which means this fire is not started from australians only.

Bilal

Anonymous said...

Too many Indians have gone to Australia on student visas. Very likely many of them are there just to migrate as opposed to get an education and head back home. Hence the backlash. Quite possible that some or all of the attacks are racially motivated (though in many of the cases I have heard it is lebanese youth who have been involved in most of the beatings - since some of the Indian students work late jobs to make money on the side). http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Indians-in-Australia-say-Lebanese-youths-behind-attacks/articleshow/4646950.cms

Something to be sorted out by the Australian government (make up their mind about how many visas they want to give - since education sector is one of the money makers down under), and the Indian government (why do these students want to go to Australia even if there is a risk?). Also something that Indian 'students' seeking education in Australia already seem to be considering, since these numbers are dropping fast:
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601080&sid=aiP.QuHloVnA

And anyway if you look at it dispassionately there have only been a handful of attacks, no worse than life led in some parts of Mumbai or any big city.

There is no point in linking this to Islamophobia or some big conspiracy theories about Westerners and others. I doubt if you can find many sympathisers in India for conspiracy theories against Islam or Pakistan.

Maybe Pakistanis should look inward before they start spinning up conspiracy theories against their real and perceived enemies e.g.:
http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/columnists/nadeem-f-paracha-cant-be-us-or-can-it-010

Reader from India

Anonymous said...

"Reader from India"

The purpose of this article is to point out recent hate crimes in Australia. These crimes are somewhat similar in nature with the hate crimes in southeast Asia, specially in India. Although India does not portray the exact picture through their so called liberal and open media.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's BBC's Soutik Biswas on violence against Indian in Australia:

People here say they still don't know why Indians are being targeted. Have the attacks followed a pattern? Do the victims have some kind of a common profile or background? How do the number of attacks on Indians compare with attacks on other expatriate groups? Are the attacks concentrated in a specific area? How many of these attacks could have had a racist motive?

Australian police have said the attacks appear to be random with no evidence they were racially motivated.

In the absence of any clarity - I have not read a single major investigation into these attacks in the Australian media, or the outcome of any official probe - the shrill sections of the Indian media, especially TV news networks, have gone ballistic.

Every other night, we have a screechy anchor telling us over manic scrawls like 'Indian Burnt In Australia' that Australia is a racist country, and Melbourne is the most racist city of all. An Indian newspaper cartoon even portrayed the Australian police as the Ku Klux Klan.

Nobody contests the fact that Indians have the right to feel worried, very worried, about the spate of attacks. More than 70,000 Indians are studying in Australia; nearly a fifth of the international enrolments are from the Indian subcontinent. There have been reports that a number of the victims have enrolled in vocational courses, and live in poorer neighbourhoods to save money.

Australia has reasons to worry about the attacks too. Education is the country's biggest export - after coal and iron ore - and international students contribute $13bn to the Australian economy every year. Australia, by one estimate, could easily lose $70m because of the attacks.

It's a no-brainer that Australian authorities need to investigate each of these attacks thoroughly to come to a considered and precise reason behind them and quell the growing mistrust between the two countries.

Many Indians I have spoken to find the discourse in the Australian media on the spate of attacks superficial. Tim Colebatch, an editor at Melbourne Age, writes that such incidents happen "because human beings are imperfect creatures. They can be selfish, they can be hateful, they can enjoying hurting, even killing, other humans. It happens here, it happens in India, it happens everywhere."

Mr Colebatch then tries to offer some clues to why Indians may have been attacked. One of the victims, Nitin Garg, was taking a short cut through a park when he was murdered, while Australians "instinctively know that their parks are not safe at night, and avoid using them as short cuts." And so, he writes, Mr Garg has "become another victim of our epidemic of alcohol abuse, our tolerance of extreme violence in films and screen games - and yes, of the Romper Stomper racism that seems to live on among teenagers in the western suburbs, now directed against Indians instead of Vietnamese."

Alcohol abuse and exposure to violent films can hardly be a problem with the Australian youth alone. And fringe racism exists in many countries in the world. Mr Colebatch's interesting observations notwithstanding, Indians feel that they are in the dark about the spate of attacks.

Anonymous said...

Yes it is for the Australian government to decide if the money they make off higher education is worth getting in people from India in large numbers. As long as the visas are up for grabs, there will be takers who have the money to pay the fees. Most of them will view the fees as a long term investment to be paid for immigration.

The Australian government holds the cards here. And to some extent the Indian 'students' who take up the visas. Indian media can holler all it wants, there will always be people who will risk going to Australia as long as they can pay the fees somehow.

This is no big issue, the number of lives lost etc. is nothing compared to what happens in South Asia on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

attack on a foreigner does not automatically means hate crime. Where is the evidence this is a hate crime. Has attacker confessed or was he yelling something. It could just be a street thug and Indians are engaging in their usual hyper-nationalism.

Riaz Haq said...

The BBC is reporting Australian claim that an Indian man Jaspreet Singh faked report of an attack and burning attempt on him:

An Indian man who claimed he was attacked by four men and set on fire fabricated the story as part of an insurance scam, Australian police say.

Jaspreet Singh, 29, is accused of criminal damage and lying to police in Melbourne after accidentally setting himself on fire while torching his car.

Mr Singh has denied the allegations and will appear in court next month.

The incident took place amid tension between India and Australia over a series of attacks against Indians.

The attacks have taken place in Sydney and Melbourne.

'Self-inflicted'

Jaspreet Singh suffered burns to 15% of his body when his car was engulfed by flames in a suburb of Melbourne earlier this month.

He told police he had been ambushed by four men who deliberately set him on fire.

The alleged assault was quickly seized upon by sections of the media in India, who saw it as further evidence that racist attacks on young Indians in Australia were spiralling out of control.

Detectives have now alleged that Mr Singh's burns were accidentally self-inflicted as he set fire to his car in an attempt to defraud his insurance company.

Arson and medical experts have concluded that his injuries, as well as the damage to his vehicle and clothes, did not match his story.

Australian authorities have conceded that some of the assaults on Indian students in recent months were racially motivated, but believe the majority were the work of opportunistic criminals.

The attacks have caused outrage in India and strained relations between the two countries.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has since promised to ensure the safety of the 90,000 Indian students in Australia.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's piece on the underlying hate against SRK by Shiv Sena...I hope it helps expose the Indian right-wing hatemongers on the net:

Hate and dividing communities is the hallmark of right wing politics, wherever they are. Whether it is in Mumbai, bashing north Indian taxi drivers or Australian skinheads attacking Indian students – the underlying message is clear – “we” are different from “you” – and this some how gives “us” the right to violently exclude “you” from our society. If the “we” in this case is the majority, this gives the added bonus to whip up a majoritarian frenzy and ride to electoral victory using that.

The anti North Indian issue whipped up by Raj Thakre and now the Bal Thakre attack on Shahrukh Khan over his comments that Pakistani cricketer should have been considered for the IPL, are a part of this larger hate agenda.

The original movement for Maharashtrian identity was very different from the hate project of the Shiv Sena and the MNS. It was the left – both communists and socialists – that had played the key role in the movement for creating Maharashtra out of the erstwhile Bombay province. This was a part of the larger struggle for linguistic reorganisation of states, waged all over the country. These were not divisive movements – they did not turn against other communities but wanted the states to be based on language. These were the movements which complemented the national movement and allowed India to create itself as a multi national and multi ethnic state – a feat that was considered inconceivable by western commentators on India then.

The Shiv Sena model of Marathi pride from the very beginning was an exclusive and a divisive one. It started with attacks on South Indians in Mumbai – the Marathi identity was asserted from the very beginning as an exclusion of other communities from Mumbai. Of course, let us have no illusions that the ruling party then – that the Congress did not dirty its hand in this too. In order to break the left labour unions, particularly in the textile mills, the mill owners and the Congress joined hands to provide explicit and implicit support to Shiv Sena. The Marathi pride was the instrument not of asserting a Marathi identity but as an instrument of exclusion.


http://newsclick.in/india/mns-goons-and-australian-skinheads-%E2%80%93-why-are-they-similar

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a recent Times of India report about Indians in Australia:

Detailed interactions with both Indian and Austrlain community, including senior officials of Victoria state and the federal government looking into the matter reveals that of the total Indian student community of 96,000 in Australia currently, an estimated 75% are pursuing vocational courses.

The Indian student enrolments in vocational education and training (VET) shot by a whopping 161% in 2006 and by 94% in 2007. In 2008, there were 52, 381 Indian students enrolled in these programmes, the highest number from any country, as per the data compiledf by the Australian Education International. Meanwhile, the growth in the number of students pursuing higher studies from India remained 5% both in 2006 and 2007. Australia has a $15 billion education export industry much of which is fuelled by Asians, many of them Indians. Students from India and China account for the largest overseas student communities here.

Among those who came here is taxi driver Mintu who hails from Ganganagar in Rajasthan and says he has done his LLB from Punjab University. ``I took up a course in Carrick institute on community welfare,'' he says, adding that both the course and the institute were ``time pass'' and only a route to apply for PR. Locals here point out that 90 per cent taxi drivers in the city are Indians. ``I earn $ 600 per week which is very good,'' Sharma says. Son of a farmer, Mintu says that there are scores of students like him, many from Hyderabad who have done their BCAs but take up courses like community welfare to get PR.

While enrolments of Indian students increased in all the states, the strongest growth was seen in Victoria and Queensland states with the most popular vocational courses being management and commerce, food hospitality and personal services and society and culture. Senior government officials here observed that these students lacked both language skills as well as their knowledge of life in cities like Melbourne and thus made them soft targets for such attacks, unlike students pursuing higher education. ``We are physically not so hefty and carry gadgets like mobiles, laptops and i-pods. Since we do not have money, we take the public transport and this was liable to be waylaid,'' Sharma explains.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report in The Indian American on a hate crime against a young Indian female student in Australia:

Family and friends are shocked by the rape and murder of Tosha Thakkar, 24, whose body was in a suitcase dumped in a canal in northwest Sydney, Australia, on March 12. Police have arrested Daniel Stani-Reginald, 19, Thakkar’s neighbor.

Thakkar was studying accounting at Sydney Cross University and was four months short of finishing her degree.

Police say Thakkar was raped and murdered March 9, by Stan-Reginald, and her body was put into a black suitcase and dumped in the canal behind Meadowbank Park where it was found March 11 by some workers, The Australian newspaper reported. Police arrested Stani-Reginald, 19, and charged him with the murder.

On March 14, at the Burwood Local Court hearing, Stani-Reginald did not appear in person but rather by video link, Gautam Gupta, spokesman for the Federation of Indian Students in Australia, told Desi Talk by phone. An Australian national, Stani-Reginald is reported to be of Sri Lankan origin.

Thakkar’s friends gathered at the court for the hearing, The Australian reported. The judge set May 9 for the trial.

Meanwhile, a March 14 Press Trust of India report from Vadodra quoted the victim’s father, Sunil Thakkar, a businessman, as saying the Australian authorities were sending his daughter’s body back to India in a few days.

Police chargesheets presented in court alleged that Stani-Reginald raped and murdered Thakkar on March 9 between 10:35 a.m. and 1 p.m. while her roommate was out. The suspect and the victim lived in separate apartments above an empty storefront on Edwin Street in Croydon in Sydney’s inner west side and the murder took place in the apartment, police say.

“As of now, they have not given any motive but now details are coming out - that he (Stani-Reginald) is a repeat offender,” Gupta told Desi Talk.
He said the Indian student community was very disturbed by the incident and that he had been fielding calls from potential students from India and their parents about the state of security in that country.

A childhood friend of Thakkar’s, who also studied in Sydney but returned to Vadodra in 2008, told The Australian that the family in Vadodra was shattered and that the last time they spoke to her via the telephone was two days before her murder.

Anonymous said...

Australian press are wrong to downplay the racist angle . It's racial . In Australia , it doesn't matter where you come from, everyone is united in their hatred of Indians . It really is as simple as that .

Anonymous said...

"Jaspreet Singh, 29, is accused of criminal damage and lying to police in Melbourne after accidentally setting himself on fire while torching his car."

"Police have arrested Daniel Stani-Reginald, 19. Stani-Reginald is reported to be of Sri Lankan origin."

"Indian students on Thursday alleged that Lebanese youths were behind the attacks on them here as they took to streets for the third consecutive night protesting against racial attacks."