The murder of an Indian man in Melbourne has reignited the debate about racism in Australia and the safety of overseas students. It has also severely strained relations between Australia and India:
INDIAN diplomats are expected to meet their Australian counterparts for crisis talks in Canberra today following the murder of an Indian migrant in Melbourne.
The murder of 21-year-old accounting graduate Nitin Garg in a Yarraville park on Saturday night was yesterday condemned by politicians in India and Australia.
Australian bloggers’ responses show a very diverse range of views.
Gerard Henderson, Executive director of The Sydney Institute, speculates on the geopolitical undertones in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald :
The tragedy happened to coincide with a distinct cooling in the relationship between the two nations over the past couple of years. During a visit to India in late 2008 I was surprised to hear strong criticism of Kevin Rudd at the highest levels of the New Delhi administration. India's prime gripe turned on the refusal of the Rudd Government's to sell uranium to India, which overturned the intention of John Howard and his senior ministers.
Loon Pond, aka Dorothy Parker, takes Henderson to task:
Is it just me, or is it just grubbiness of an arcane kind to link the assault and murder of Indians in Australia to Australia's current policies in relation to the sale of uranium to India?
That's the convoluted tap dance performed by Gerard Henderson in Student assaults teach some harsh lessons about racism.
Peter Maher blogs for Melbourne radio station 3AW. He is concerned that there is a culture of denial, whether or not the killing was racially motivated:
How anyone can say it is not race related when they do not know the circumstances of the murder as I said earlier is difficult to comprehend.
What I do know though is that this abusive, violent, murderous behaviour towards Indians in this country is far too prevalent to suggest that we do not have a problem with racism in this country.
… We are so quick to brush these racist tendencies under the carpet and provide the world with this image of us as being non-discriminatory and all-inviting.
I think it is time we took a real good look at ourselves and do something about the racism that exists in this country.
Dave, blogging as True Blue Aussie, has little doubt about the nature of any racism:
Of course everyone in Melbourne is aware, that Footscray, which used to be an Australian suburb, is now full of Islamic Sudanese, Middle Eastern Arabs and Somalians. There is hardly an Australian to be seen in Footscray. So, welcome to the divisive multicultural, ethnically diverse, immigration hell hole where immigrants (in this case likely be be muslims) attack other immigrants and Australians are blamed. Dave
A Facebook group, 1,000,000 True Aussies Against Racism, has a very different view of what it means to be an “Australian”. Their aim is to:
Stop the vocal minority who are using Facebook and talk back radio to make this wonderful country look like REDNECK nirvana.
Andrew Bartlett, former Democrats Senator and current Greens candidate for the next Federal election, wants more action from both State and Federal leaders. Writing for Asian Correspondent he argues:
While every crime should be treated on its merits, and we should not automatically assume this latest crime was racially motivated, the history of past attacks, and arguably the slowness of Australian authorities to take the issue sufficiently seriously, means that just a single serious incident such as this has the Hindustan Times reporting that, “Indian government officials ‘will be forced’ to issue a (travel) advisory in the form of a warning to those who want to work and study Down Under, if the (Australian) authorities there did not take stern action this time.”
It is the responsibility of government and community leaders to take effective steps to assure people that (a) the issue is being treated with maximum seriousness, and (b) everything reasonable is done to ensure peoples’ safety. When there is a plausible prospect that people are being targeted because of their race, it is essential that all is done to reduce the risks to them.
Meanwhile the safety of athletes and visitors at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October is an ongoing issue that could erupt at any time. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has a High Degree of Caution as its current travel advice for India. Tit for tat coming up perhaps?
UPDATE 6 January 2010
The Times of India reports that an advisory warning has been the result:
Succumbing to popular outrage over continuing attacks on Indian students in Australia, the government on Tuesday issued an advisory warning students heading to Australia for studies and those already there.
The foreign ministry cautioned students that incidents of violence had started affecting the larger Indian community in Australia. The advisory came three days after accounting graduate Nitin Garg was knifed to death, the first fatality in the attacks. It also came on a day when Indian and Australian officials met in Canberra to search for better ways to deal with the continuing violence even as the partially burnt body of another Indian was found.