Indians attacked: time for action vs need for calm

January 5, 2010

Days after accounting graduate Nitin Garg was stabbed to death in Melbourne, the incident has not just triggered anger but also speculation of strained diplomatic ties between India and Australia.

Flowers and candles from a vigil are seen at the park where Nitin Garg was stabbed in the western suburbs of Melbourne January 5, 2010. REUTERS/Mick TsikasAustralian authorities have repeatedly maintained the attacks were not racially motivated, an argument spurned by the Indian press that cited past incidents of a similar nature, targeting mainly Indians on a student visa.

From the point of view of Australian authorities, terming the attacks as racial will have larger ramifications for a country whose economy depends on the international student sector to a great extent.

It is Australia’s third largest export earner, worth A$13 billion ($11.86 billion) in 2007-08.

Once it is branded as a destination where students of ethnic origin are unsafe, the education sector can expect a large loss of revenue which may also spill over on its tourism industry.

Australian newspapers were cautious in their condemnation of the incident.

“Australia must be able to present as a secure environment for visitors who come here. And while our concern ought not be motivated by economic gain, the reality is the dollars involved in higher education and trade training mean it is essential that Indian worries are adequately dealt with.

“However, calm assessment, not hyperbole, is what is needed from both nations at this moment,” The Australian newspaper wrote.

The Indian civil society has been baying for blood, and television debates revolved around the need to see firm action either in form of travel advisories or sanctions that would force Australian authorities to take preventive action to protect the 100,000 Indian students in Australia.

Minister of External Affairs S.M. Krishna condemned the “brutal attack”.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activists burn photographs of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Australia's national flag during a protest in Bhopal January 4, 2010. REUTERS/Raj PatidarBoth countries have scheduled diplomatic meetings to address the issue. On the streets, people have held candlelight vigils and taken out processions.

Whether the need of the hour demands diplomatic intervention, civil society action or a combination of both, is yet to be decided.

Diplomatic steps might assuage immediate feelings of hurt and anger, but will they ultimately be effective in addressing a malaise which has its roots deep in a society struggling with unemployment during tough economic conditions?

What do both states need to do about stemming the rot which India insists is racial discrimination?

Whether the attacks are racial or criminal, the motivating factor behind it, analysts feel, is the growing unacceptance of national jobs going to foreigners.

Unless quid pro quo measures, whether in the form of scholarships in Indian universities or job opportunities in India’s burgeoning economy, are taken, the prejudice will continue to grow until another incident like that of Nitin Garg comes back to haunt India.

6 comments

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Well said! Never seen such an unbiased article, where the writer did have massive opportunities to be biased to 1 side, which could be justified as well. No wonder Reuters is not yet in the discount rack.

Well, racial attacks mean, an attack on ‘all’ Indians in Australia. It includes onsite Indian employees, tourists, students etc.. But this is not at all a racial scene over here. But it is of course criminal. There cannot be smoke without a fire. So maybe the Australian Govt dig deep into the causes of this effect, and control immigrations if the need exists.

~J~

Posted by x.wolfman | Report as abusive

@wolfman

How would you then explain attacks happening on Indians with student visa. Your statement that there can not a smoke without a fire is shameless. What Australian police has been doing till now? They should have found ‘smoke’ by now, if it indeed exists. Of course you are paranoid about the immigration although you yourself are in immigrant. If your society, of which you are a part, doesn’t like immigrants then they should make laws to that effect and tell it clearly. All Australians politicians and officials when they come to India they always say we welcome you in our country. We want Indian students to come to our country; and now they can not protect them. That is a good example of the double standards Australians live with.

Regarding quid pro quo measures suggested by the author, Indian universities and Institutions do not restrict entries of foreign students. If Australian students want to come to India, they are welcome. Regarding job opportunities, Govt. has to make a law. We are not a developed country like Australia and we have 1 billion people already. We can not afford to start giving jobs to everyone from all part of the world. Although there are many foreigners already working in India and many Australian companies earn big profit here, which they take to Australia. Australians should question these companies rather attacking Indian students. What a shameful statement from the author. These Indian students are not rich, they take loans from banks in India and then go study Australia hoping of better future. In that process Australia also earn big bucks (Education is already third big export sector in Australia). Aren’t they helping Australian economy? If Australian are attacking these hard-working students, then what treatment do you think Indians should give to Australian?

Posted by holywarrior007 | Report as abusive

X.Wolfman says “There cannot be a smoke without a fire”, So he and his Australian country men will accept the smoke of burning Graham Stains and his kids in Orissa was caused by some fire, right?.

Posted by rcv | Report as abusive

@wolfman

Who are immigrants in Autralia, You europeans or Asians who have more proximity to that piece of land called Australia.

Posted by rcv | Report as abusive

As an Australian (originally from Melbourne, now living in Sydney) who has travelled extensively throughout India, I would genuinely hate to see these tragic recent events affect our country’s relationship. Whilst I fear that racism may have had some influence on these attacks, I don’t think you can discount other influences, such as economic reasons, from the equation as well. It is a difficult issue that needs clear and deep understanding by both parties and should not descend into petty labelling by either side.

Everywhere I travelled in India I was welcomed and felt entirely safe. I look forward to my next trip with the same excitement and hope that we can get past this unfortunate and tragic incident. My heart goes out to the families involved.

Posted by Billo666 | Report as abusive

Indians have taken over public transport/IT/medicine/etc… which I agree is the fault of the companies in question. They are only interested in profit not things like the fact that Indians are unaware of common courtesies that are enjoyed among Australians who have built this country together. Countless times I have been sneered at while a taxi driver fails to understand that tips are not the go in Australia unless you earn it somehow. The examples of Indian boorishness which fuels Australian discontent are numerous. Dreadful bedside manner of Indian medical professionals in particular.

Posted by mehblahmah | Report as abusive