Australian police break up protest rally, detain 18 Indians
Australian police on Monday broke up a sit-in protest against violent attacks on Indian students, detaining 18 for allegedly "breaching peace" during the rally. The protestors who blocked the busiest street of the city have accused the police of "ramrodding" them to break up their sit-in, according to media reports.Updated: Jun 01, 2009, 10:35 IST
About 18 youths were detained for allegedly "breaching peace" during a rally by Indian students demanding justice for the victims of racial attacks in Australia.
Thousands of students, shaken by a wave of racial assaults including an 25-year-old Shravan Kumar who is battling for life in a local hospital, however, called off their protest at 5.15 am (local time).
The protestors who blocked the busiest street of the city have accused the police of "ramrodding" them to break up their sit-in, according to media reports here.
"There are constant discussions with the Australian authorities in regards to the safety and security of our students," Anita Nayyar, Indian Consulate General in Melbourne, said.
Nayyar said she had no information if any student was hurt in the last night rally and added that the identity of the 18 detained protestors was not known.
"I assume everyone has a right to express themselves, but within Australian laws," She said, adding investigations will follow will be transparent and fair one in regard to the detained.
The 'peace rally' was organised by bodies like Federation of Indian Students in Australia (FISA) and National Union of Students.
The protest was kicked off yesterday from outside the Royal Melbourne Hospital, where Kumar is in a critical condition after being stabbed by a screwdriver by a group of teens on Sunday last.
The protestors claim that the violent attacks on Indians in Australia are racially motivated.
FISA founder Gautam Gupta said the peace rally was "hijacked" by some of troublemakers and they were not even the part of the student associations.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland agreed on Gupta's claim, saying the protest appeared to have been "hijacked" by a group of troublemaker. The protestors who were not Indians had also joined the demonstration and some of them were drunk, he said.
Meanwhile, Gupta said FISA had no plans to organise rallies in future.
Overland, according to TV channels, justified the use of force on the demonstrators.
"I watched the whole event -- I didn't see any inappropriate use of force," he said, adding "Now in that, there were blows because many (of the protesters) had been linked and resistance was going on. If someone inadvertently got hit in the mouth, I regret that, but that came about from the actions of the demonstrators after they had been given every opportunity to leave the area."
Overland said the protestors had "made their point" and been given repeated opportunities to disperse before police took action.
The police officer said the Indian students had petitioned him with a range of requests, including increased police action against those inciting racial attacks and curbing binge-drinking.
He said one of the police officer's hand was bitten during the protest. "One of my officers was bitten on the hand and suffered an injury as a result of that," he said. "There was some violence, it could have been a lot worse, but overall I think we got out of it quite well," he added.
One protestor was arrested for assault and another charged on summons for throwing objects through windows at Flinders Street station yesterday, he said. "I think their demonstration was hijacked -- it initially started as a peaceful demonstration," Overland said.
"The organisers of that demonstration then left. There were other people who became involved, most of them weren't Indian. They were there for their own reasons, and I think the whole thing just got hijacked and got out of control."
Police had to shut down the bottle shop at the Young and Jacksons hotel.
Victoria Police will send an officer to India to talk to people considering study in Australia.