Where: Melbourne, Australia
May 31, 2009 : A number of Indian students were attacked in a series of violent incidents in Melbourne over the last few days. One of the most shocking incidents was the one in which 25-year-old Shravan Kumar was stabbed by a group of teenagers who forced their way into his house. Kumar, who almost died on the way to hospital, had to be put on life support systems. Days later he was reported to be out of danger, but doctors expressed doubts that he would ever recover fully.
There are around 95,000 Indian students in Australia and they, like other foreign students, are a big source of income for universities. Shock waves spread across the community and in India, and the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lodged a strong protest.
In response, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd reassured the Indian government that stern action would be taken and that Australia is not a racist country. Five teenagers were later arrested in connection with the attempted murder of Shravan Kumar. Australian authorities denied that the crimes had any racial angle. They said Indian students were easy targets. Not many Indians agreed with this, either in Australia or at home in India.
Thousands took part in a peaceful protest rally organised by the Federation of Indian Students of Australia on Sunday, May 31. Television reports showed the police using excessive force against many of them. Back in India, Amitabh Bachchan, the country’s best known film actor, turned down an honorary doctorate from an Australian university. Indian filmmakers, with whom Australia has been a favourite shooting location, have begun calling for a complete boycott of the country. Australia has now announced that it plans to impose tough punishments for hate crimes.