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Australia says ‘it happens’...

Melbourne, January 6
As India issued a travel advisory for Australia following unabated assaults and killing of its citizens, Australia today asked India not to whip up "hysteria" over a young expatriate’s murder here, saying such incidents occur in big cities around the world. Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard insisted that her country is safe for all international students and that Australia will continue to welcome Indian students.

“In big cities around the world we do see acts of violence from time to time; that happens in Melbourne, it happens in Mumbai, it happens in New York, it happens in London,” she was quoted as saying by ABC News. “Any individual act of violence is obviously to be deeply regretted and our sympathies go to anyone who is harmed by an act of violence,” Gillard said.

Acting Foreign Minister Simon Crean said that there was no evidence to suggest that the attack on 21-year-old Nitin Garg, a student who was fatally stabbed in the abdomen on Sunday, was racially-motivated, adding it was one of a spate of stabbings in Melbourne over the Christmas period. “It so happens that one of the victims is Indian...”

About comments by External Affairs Minister S M Krishna who termed the killing of Garg as a "brutal attack", Crean said he hoped “wiser heads will prevail.” Krishna had also warned that such incidents could have a bearing on bilateral ties.

Acting Premier of Victoria, Rob Hulls, also maintained that the state is a friendly place to study. “Whilst warnings are entirely a matter for the Indian government, everyone needs to realise that Melbourne is a welcoming, open place that certainly welcomes Indian students and students from all around the world," he said.

He also called on the Indian government to show restraint in its response to the killing. "People should just show some restraint and allow the police to get on with the job of investigating this callous crime," he said.

Days after Garg was stabbed to death here, Australian police found a partially-charred body of another Indian youth in New South Wales. India yesterday issued an advisory asking its citizens studying or planning to study in Australia to take certain basic precautions to ensure their safety.

Meanwhile, India's Deputy High Commissioner in Canberra, VK Sharma, said on Wednesday that New Delhi's concerns about the latest attack on an Indian student in Australia have been conveyed to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, adding that it would be too early to say that Nitin Garg's murder was racially motivated. The police have not ruled out racism as a motive but say there is no evidence to support this.Sharma said India had asked Australia to do all it could to prevent assaults on Indians and bring the culprits of Saturday's attack to justice. — Agencies



... but shows ‘determination’ to punish Nitin’s killers
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal along with other Akali leaders present an MoU to Australian High Commissioner to India, Peter Verghese
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal along with other Akali leaders present an MoU to Australian High Commissioner to India, Peter Verghese, on Wednesday. A Tribune photograph

New Delhi, January 6
Seeking to address New Delhi’s concerns over continuing violence against Indians Down Under, Australia today said it was determined to bring to justice the perpetrators of the fatal attack on Nitin Garg, an Indian student hailing from Punjab.

“Our focus right now is very much on police investigation… We want to see the perpetrators or perpetrator of this criminal act being brought to justice,’’ Australian High Commissioner to India, Peter Verghese, said at a hurriedly convened press conference to control the damage caused to Oz’s reputation as an attractive destination for higher studies in the wake of racial attacks on Indian students.

He, however, maintained that most of the attacks were ‘opportunistic urban crimes’ and not directed against Indians as such. “I don’t deny that there could be racist element to the attacks but a majority of these cases are opportunistic urban crime,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, his deputy, Sukhbir Singh Badal, and several other senior leaders from the state today met the Australian envoy seeking “steps to safeguard life and property of Punjabis against increasing number of racist attacks in Australia”. They presented him a memorandum for taking up the matter at the highest level in the Government of Australia to ensure quick and effective response to the situation.

The Congress also condemned the ‘racially motivated attacks’ on Indians in Australia and asked the authorities to thoroughly investigate the incidents. Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan asked the Australian authorities to take concrete steps to ensure the safety of Indian students.

Verghese admitted that the continuing attacks on Indian students could result in a sharp decline in Indian students going to Australia to pursue higher studies. There are nearly 120,000 Indians enrolled in various Australian universities. The booming education industry is a money-spinner for the country and Australia obviously is worried over the repercussions of the spate of attacks on foreign students.

Verghese, an ethnic Malayalee, sought to downplay what are seen as insensitive remarks attributed to Australia’s acting Foreign Minister Simon Crean in which he asked India not to fuel hysteria in the wake of the latest attack. “He (Crean) had been misquoted. All he said was reactions have to be measured and that the Australian Government would take all necessary measures to ensure the security of International students,” the Australian envoy added.

Asked why the attacks had not stopped despite Australia’s claims that it had taken a number of security measures in recent months, he said it was not possible for any nation to totally abolish crime. “We have given the police powers to ensure the safety of Indian students in Australia. These measures are designed to address the problem and we will continue to pursue these measures.’’



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