India sees red as another student is attacked in Australia
Rajesh Kumar was reading a book on May 24 when a lit bottle of petrol hit him. The missile, thrown from the rear his home, caught the 25-year-old hospitality graduate from Haryana in the head and burnt 30 per cent of his body.
Kumar is in intensive care at a Sydney hospital. 100 attacks on Indians in 3 years
The attack was part of a spate of attacks against Indian students in the past week, most recently Melbourne student Baljinder Singh, who was robbed and stabbed in the abdomen, according to Melbourne newspaper The Herald-Sun.
On Friday, New Delhi ratcheted up pressure on Canberra to protect Indian students, summoning Australian High Commissioner John McCarthy as Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith telephoned External Affairs Minister SM Krishna.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has also conveyed his concerns to counterpart Kevin Rudd.
Last weekend, another Melbourne student, Sravan Kumar Theerthala, 25, was stabbed with a screwdriver at a party and earlier this month, Sourabh Sharma, 21, sustained a fractured cheekbone and broken tooth after being assaulted on a train in Melbourne.
Indian High Commissioner to Australia Sujatha Singh dismissed police suggestions that these students were in the wrong place at the wrong time, admitting that “there is a racism element,” given the sheer numbers of Indian students attacked.
Singh confirmed that police presence would be bolstered around trouble spots in Melbourne to curb the attacks.
Anita Nair, Indian consul-general in Melbourne, told Hindustan Times that the attacks on Indian students were more noticeable because Indians were the largest student group in Melbourne and even in Australia as a whole.
She added that Indian students “put themselves in a vulnerable position” and faced with paying for their living expenses, work late shifts in gas stations.
Ajay Unni, Sydney representative of the Federation of Indian Students in Australia (FISA), said even if attack reports were lodged with the police, action was not taken.
“In the last year I have personally spoken to five or six students and out of them, three are not willing to share their stories with the media. A police case gets lodged and then that’s it, swept under the blanket,” Unni said. “You have to wait for people to be brutally hit, for action to be taken, which is not acceptable.” Indian students currently make up 93,000 of foreign students in Australia, of which nearly half are based in Melbourne, making education a very profitable trade between the two countries.
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