M A I N   N E W S

Racism behind attacks, admit top Oz officers
Dinesh Kumar writes from Melbourne

In a day of confessions and plain-speaking, the Victorian police chief and a former Australian chief of defence staff have separately publicly stated that many of the continuing attacks on Indians are ‘racism-based’ even as reports reveal that the attacks on Indian and other international students never figured in meetings of Australia’s two apex police bodies for over a year-and-a-half, including through most of 2009.

In a damning indictment, the Attorney General’s department has revealed that even as top Australian politicians including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Victoria Premier John Brumby were making a beeline to India last year to assuage outraged sentiments following a spate of attacks on Indians, the assaults on Indian and other international students did not figure in the meeting agenda of either the Ministerial Council for Police and Emergency Management or the supporting Senior Officers Group in 17 months from July 2008 to November 2009. This was despite warnings from Indian, Chinese and Indonesian diplomatic missions in Australia expressing concern about the safety of their respective student nationals.

Admitting that the police have been aware of attacks on Indians “for over two years now, long before it hit the public”, Victoria’s chief commissioner of police Simon Overland today confessed, “There is a racist element to some attacks.” In an interview to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Overland said, “Indians are over-represented in robbery statistics but not in assaults”, adding that “about 50 per cent assaults on Indians involve taxi drivers and convenience store clerks”. “There is no question, regardless of the motives, Indian students have to a degree been targeted in robberies and that is not okay,” he said.

Overland’s statements are in contrast to that of his police force, which has been quick to rule out racism as a motive every time an Indian is assaulted, attacked, robbed and murdered in the state. A fortnight ago, the state’s police chief dismissed any suggestions that the attacks against Indians had reached a point of concern saying, “Indians were safer in Australia than in India”, citing statistics of crime and dowry deaths in India.

In a candid Australia Day address in Sydney on Tuesday night, General Peter Cosgrove, a country icon and former chief of defence staff, said the attacks on Indians had become “a major problem” and many were clearly racially motivated.

“If you didn’t suspect a racial strand you’d be mad,” he said while observing that the number of incidents against Indians seemed “too many to be coincidences” and that the recent spate of attacks by groups looked like “a profiling approach” to people from the subcontinent.

General Cosgrove, declared Australian of the Year in 2001, has studied a defence course in India in 1994, a country he says he “loves”. “I sense in relation to the spate of attacks on largely Indian people, in Melbourne and elsewhere, Australians are very concerned and disinclined to downplay, much less dismiss, the potential ‘racist’ elements in what is becoming a litany of criminality,” he said.

Australia’s retired top soldier was not without a message to Victoria’s police chief, who has been citing crime statistics in India to pre-empt criticism that his police was not doing enough to prevent crime against Indians and catch the culprits. “India has its casteism, religious tensions and hatred. But if you are inclined, therefore, to think in relation to recent events about ‘stones and glass houses’, don’t. This issue must be about us,” he said.



Fifth Indian cabbie attacked

An Indian taxi driver was attacked by his two passengers in Melbourne on Saturday night. This takes the number of attacks on Indian cabbies to five in the state of Victoria alone between January 14 and 16. The 25-year-old Indian cabbie was punched several times in the face by one of his two passengers, one of who was male and the other female, before fleeing from the site.



Violence Down Under
Attacks to affect ties, says Krishna
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 20
Anguished over yet another attack on an Indian taxi driver Down Under, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna today sent out a clear message to Australia that people-to-people ties could be “adversely affected” if the violence did not cease forthwith.“Unless there is immediate stop to the attacks, our people-to-people level exchanges, which include the area of education and tourism, will get adversely affected,” the Minister said here. He said the issue had been taken up by the Indian mission in Canberra with Australian authorities.

Krishna pointed out that in his telephonic conversation with his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith on January 11, he had underlined the need for “immediate corrective measures” and sought a “sense of urgency”. He urged Australia to bring the attackers to book and to put in “effective security measures” that will increase the sense of well-being among Indians in that country.

Police today released images of a couple who allegedly attacked the taxi driver in Melbourne on Saturday, hoping people could help identify the suspects from the footage taken during the taxi ride. Police, however, maintained that the attack could not be called racially motivated.



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