Attacks on Indians in Oz: Student community seeks swift action

Updated on Dec 09, 2009 10:49 AM IST

Under fire over the spate of racial attacks on Indian students, Australia today scrambled to salvage its image as a "safe" destination for education for foreigners as anger swept through the community, which demanded swift action against the perpetrators.Have your say: Is Australia unsafe for Indian students? | Surfers' Response | 100 attacks on Indians in 3 yrs

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PTI | ByNatasha Chaku, Melbourne

Under fire over the spate of racial attacks on Indian students, Australia on Saturday scrambled to salvage its image as a "safe" destination for education for foreigners as anger swept through the community, which demanded swift action against the perpetrators.

Television footage of 25-year-old Shravan Kumar, who was stabbed with a screwdriver by a group of teenagers, battling for life in a hospital here sent shock waves among the 95,000-strong Indian student community in Australia which sought stern action against the culprits.

The Federation of Indian Students in Australia (FISA) has called for a peace rally in Australia on Sunday in response to the growing anger in the community against increasing hates crimes.

"The purpose is to create an awareness about an increasing number of hate crimes within the state (of Victoria) and to promote racial harmony and peace," FISA said in a statement.

The rally will start from Royal Melbourne Hospital, where Kumar is lying in coma, and will conclude at the Victorian Parliament House. A candle light vigil will also be held in support for the recent victims of crime.

Another Indian student, Baljinder Singh, stabbed by two attackers early this week, has been discharged from hospital while Rajesh Kumar, who suffered 30 per cent burns after a petrol bomb was hurled at him in his home, was being treated in a Sydney hospital.

Concerned over increasing attacks on Indians in Melbourne, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh raised the issue with his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd last night.

Singh, who received a call from Rudd to congratulate him on assumption of office for a second term, used the opportunity to convey India's concerns over the attacks on Indian students in Australia.

Rudd, who made no mention of the attacks having a racist overtone, said he was "concerned about any act of violence in the streets and suburbs of Australia's cities and towns and particularly when we are obviously hosts to students from around the world."

"It is appalling in every sense. Any act of violence, any decent human being just responds with horror at the sorts of attacks which have occurred recently," he said. New Delhi wants that the attacks targeting Indians should be stopped forthwith and steps taken to ensure their safety and security.

A police officer from the state of Victoria, which houses 47,000 Indian students, leaves for India this weekend on a mission to meet with students planning to visit Australia and to teach them how to stay safe, ABC reported.

"It's mainly on crime prevention and safety strategy tips. Probably much the sort of information I'd give to my daughter if she was going overseas to another country," police community liaison officer Leading Senior Constable Victor Robb was quoted as saying.

However, the initiative by Victoria Police has been criticised as "ill conceived" by the local Islamic Council, which says police should spend more time arresting "racists" and less time trying to teach Indians to look less Indian, the report said.

Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Julia Gillard, meanwhile, said that Australia, where over 4 lakh international students are based, "overwhelmingly is a safe country."

"But I have recognised as minister for education that we need to do more to ensure that students who come to study in Australia from overseas are safe," she was quoted as saying by 'Radio Australia'.

"I am moving to make sure that we listen to the voice of international students in this country about what would help them feel safer and be safer and I am of course working with our state and territory government's to make sure that police respond and respond well to these incidents," Gillard said.

In his reaction to the recent assault cases, President of the National Union of Students, David Barrow, said that Federal and State Governments need to make Indian students feel more comfortable about approaching Australian authorities.

"You need to feel welcomed by this country and right now we are treating international students like cash cows as opposed to human beings," he said.

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