Where: Canberra, Australia
February 3, 2010 : A large number of Indians living in Australia have become the targets of violence in the past months*. Most of the victims are students, who have been beaten, robbed, and in some cases, murdered. The most recent case was that of Nitin Garg, who was stabbed to death on January 2, 2010.
In 2007-2008, there were almost 1500 cases of crimes against Indians in the state of Victoria alone. Most of them were in the capital Melbourne. Between 2004 and 2009, 33 Indians died in violent attacks countrywide.
Australia had become the most favoured destination for Indian students in the last decade. Their numbers rose from 2,700 in 2002 to 91,400 in 2009.
Now, things have changed. Students in India have been asked by the Ministry of External Affairs to ‘avoid’ Australia. Leaders of the main opposition party asked the Indian government what it was doing to ensure the safety of those who are already there. On January 5, 2010, the Indian government issued an advisory to Indian students in Australia asking them to take precautions while travelling.
The Victoria state government’s head, premier John Brumby, said the Indian government and press were overreacting. He said they were taking an unbalanced view of the situation. The Australian authorities have consistently denied that Indians were targeted for race reasons. It suggested that the Indians who were attacked lived in poor neighbourhoods, and worked at ‘unsafe’ times and places.
The Indian Government’s representative in Australia, High Commissioner Sujata Singh, asked Australia’s government to take tough action to prevent more attacks. If not, the consequences would be ‘long term’, she added. She also said that the government in Victoria was in “a state of denial”.
India and Australia need to resolve this crisis in the relationship between the two countries. It is in Australia’s interest to ensure the safety of visitors to the country. Australia’s government earns a lot of income (revenue) from foreign students, and it needs to preserve the image of that country as a multicultural and racially tolerant society.
* See a similar report from 2009 on this website