Stop Racist Attacks on Indians in Australia!
The attacks on Indians in Australia show no signs of abating, and have now claimed two lives. A 21-year old young man Nitin Garg was stabbed on his way to work, and some days later, the half-burnt body of another Indian man was discovered – both incidents have happened in the vicinity of Melbourne. Another recent victim, 29-year old Jaspreet Singh, is now recovering from burns to 15 per cent of his body on his hands, face and legs.
While the Australian Government continues to deny that racist attacks are happening, even India’s Minister for External Affairs, S M Krishna, has refused to recognize that the killings are racist in nature. The latter has said he will not ‘prejudge’ the killings as racial – an ironic statement given that surely it is prejudiced to deny that the spate of murderous attacks are anything but racist in nature!
One can recall that the Melbourne police, in the wake of the first spate of attacks, ‘advised’ Indian students to avoid speaking their native language in public; a warning that only confirms that the latter are being targeted for their ‘native language’ and related factors. That racism is very much a reality in contemporary Australia is also borne out by a recent study at the ANU, Canberra, which confirmed racist discrimination in employment, especially against Asians: for instance, to get the same number of interviews as an applicant with an Anglo-Saxon name, an Asian applicant must submit 68 per cent more applications.
The Police Chief Commissioner of the Australian state of Victoria, Simon Overland, has recently admitted that Indians are overrepresented in robbery statistics, and that the racism factor is also a central element in some attacks. Former Australian Army Chief Peter Cosgrove went further to say that some elements were “preying on visitors” from India. Challenging the official line of Australian police and government, he said, “…in relation to the spate of attacks on largely Indian people…Australians are very concerned and disinclined to downplay, much less dismiss, the potential ‘racist’ elements in what is becoming a litany of criminality. Attacks recently by groups of people on individuals looks like a profiling approach to people from the sub-continent. Rather than say ‘nothing to worry about’, I'd rather look more closely. If you didn't suspect a racial strand you'd be mad.”
Ironically in India, groups like the Shiv Sena have been using the attacks in Australia to bolster up their nationalistic pretensions and even further their own communal agenda. The Sri Ram Sene, a Hindu majoritarian outfit, notorious for the attack on women in a Mangalore pub last year, has reportedly issued a warning in the Bhatkal district of Karnataka: “It is obviously clear that the Indian Christians are having a hidden hand behind ongoing attacks on Hindus in Australia. If the attacks on Hindus doesn’t stop there, we will not spare even a single church in Bhatkal Taluq.”
The Shiv Sena called for a ban on playing cricket with Australia. The Shiv Sena’s stance is ironic, since it’s own attacks on Hindi-speaking migrant workers in Mumbai smack of the same syndrome as the racist attacks on Indians in Australia! Regional/linguistic chauvinism – as displayed by the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) – is nothing but a desi variant of racism, as is the communal violence against Muslims, for which, too, the Shiv Sena is notorious.
At the height of the violence by the Raj Thackeray-led MNS in Mumbai, the Congress-led Government of Maharashtra had calculatedly done little to curb the violence against migrant workers from North Indian Hindi-speaking states, banking on the MNS to cut into Shiv Sena votes in the elections. Now, the Congress Government has gone one step ahead, trying to compete with the MNS-Shiv Sena agenda by proposing that licenses for plying taxis in Mumbai would be given only to those with a 15-year domicile in the state and who can read and write Marathi. In the face of an outcry, the Congress has now backtracked from the latter requirement – but not without having given fresh fodder to the MNS and Shiv Sena.
The Indian Government must stop toeing the Australian Government’s shameful denial of racist attacks – an attitude that is only emboldening the attackers, and must take stern and decisive measures to pressurize the latter to combat race-crimes and protect Indians in that country. In India the nationalistic posturing of groups like the Shiv Sena must be exposed, and all sorts of discriminatory acts, be it by the Shiv Sena-MNS or by the Congress Government of Maharashtra, must be resisted.