Attacks on Indian Students:
Australian Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and police officials have been at pains to assure India that the recent attacks against Indian students in their country were not racist. On Wednesday the Australian High Commissioner lent his voice to this chorus. High Commissioner Peter Varghese told media: “As of now we don’t know who has done it, and so we don’t know the motive.” He added: “A majority of these have been opportunistic, urban crimes.” Indian officials and commentators dispute Australian claims. Critics insist that the attacks are racist.
One tends to disagree with the critics. This scribe’s early suspicion was that the attacks were not racist. Australians have little or no record of racist tendencies. And because of cricket they have a special bond with India. It now seems that early suspicions were justified. The attacks were worse than being racist. They are anti-Indian. In response to a journalist’s question Mr Varghese said he could not ascertain the demographic profile of the foreign students attacked because such data was not available to him. Mr Varghese is a noted Intelligence expert in his country. He should not insult our intelligence.
According to Australia’s pre-eminent demographer, Bernard Salt, foreign students have rated Australia as the safest place in the world to study, despite the recent attacks against Indian students. He came to this conclusion after a recent survey that included 6,000 students from eight countries. The bulk of the attacks were against Indians. In mid-2009 within two months there were 81 attacks against Indians. During 2009 there were in all 105 attacks against Indians in Australia.
It is not as if Indians dominate Asian communities in Australia. There are 203,143 Chinese, 180,352 Vietnamese and 153,179 Indians in Australia. Even smaller Malaysia has 103,147 residents in Australia. From 2004 to 2009 the number of Indians studying in Australia rose from 30,000 to 97,000. China has well over 130,000 students in Australia. The Chinese Embassy spokesman in Canberra expressed concern over attacks against Indian students and sought better protection for all foreign students. However, regarding Chinese students he acknowledged: “They have on the whole had good study and living environment in Australia.”
The attacks therefore are primarily against Indians. This is not racism. This is a clear anti-India assault. Mr Peter Varghese seems to be right that these attacks are not racist but “opportunistic, urban crimes.” But most of the attacks against Indians have shown little motive of robbery. Then which opportunity were these non-racist attackers seizing? Have the Australian police zeroed in on some of the attackers and verified if there has been substantial addition to their declared or undeclared assets? Have they tried to trace the trail behind the attacks to see if there is any organized operation at work? In 2009 on 8 June, 9 June and 10 June, Indian students claimed they were being attacked by Lebanese and being ignored by the police. Have Australian authorities probed why Lebanese should have altercated with Indians? As an experienced Intelligence expert Mr Varghese would know that it is the easiest thing for any organized group to finance petty criminals and launch concerted attacks against a targeted community. One is sure that the Australian police are too competent and professional to have overlooked this possibility and not investigated it. If so, did they find anything? If they did find something would they share it with us or would the truth be too awkward to reveal?
India may not always be led by a government incapable of protecting national interests. A deliberate organized attack targeting Indians in Australia seems to be under way. As yet Australian authorities have shown little resolve to stop it. Such unrestricted warfare will seriously damage Indo-Australian ties in the long term.