In the last 12 months, more than 70 Indian students have been assaulted in Australia. Though the Australian police insists that these attacks were not racially-motivated, Indian students and the government have disagreed with this view.
Thanks to the focus on the issue in the Indian media, an impression has been created among the people back home that the Australian authorities are not doing much to curb such attacks. But this is not true: Australian leaders have already convened a meeting with foreign students and have tried to find out more about the nature of these crimes and the administrations of different universities. They have also demanded quick action against the criminals. A senior police official has been sent to India to assure prospective students about their safety in the country.
The problem is that Indian students in Australia stay in rundown suburbs and in over-crowded apartments to save money. Unfortunately, these are also the places that are home to drug addicts and unemployed people.
In the current context, if racism is being defined as unequal treatment of ‘others’, then I am afraid I must say that ‘white Australians’ are not all racists. On the basis of the above definition, even if we ignore the treatment meted out to ‘Dalits’ and Muslim-Hindu riots in India, I would say south Indians suffer discrimination in north India and vice-versa. The same is true for people from Bihar and UP looking for work in Mumbai.
But I do not mean to convey an impression that there is no racism in Australia. But there are anti-discrimination laws here that have proven to be effective in punishing the perpetrators.
There are some precautions that Indian students can take to protect themselves like avoiding fly-by-night operators and search on the Internet about the university and the place. Indian students already in Australia must also make an effort to reach out to the local population. They must also not hesitate to report any incidents of abuse. Further, they must form a body to represent their interests.
(VS Sharma is based in Australia)