The sad death in Melbourne of Indian student Nitin Garg has re-ignited the debate over the safety of Indian students in Australia. Just to get some background on reactions, I read the blog comments in the Hindustan Times and the Sydney Morning Herald.
Some of the Hindustan Times comments reveal deeply racist judgments towards this country. Three examples:
Indians should also make a group in Australia and start killing these white bastards. I recommend to behead them first and then chop up their complete bodies. Later on beheaded head should be smashed with hammer and then every one should piss on the remains. Go indians...awaiting for video footage
Well can't blame the Aussies. They started as a bunch of thugs, killed the Aborigines and now they continue to do same. The Australians are nowhere on the world stage and presently facing severe problem with Binge drinking.
IT IS TIME TO CHECKMATE ANGLO SAXAN RACISM SPEARHEADED BY AUSTRALIA. KILL THESE RACISTS BEFORE YOU GOT KILLED THAT IS THE SOLUTION TO THESE PROBLEM YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO PROTECT YOUR LIFE FROM A KILLER. IF THE COUNTRY IS LIKE AUSTRALIA BETTER HAVE A WEAPON IN YOUR POCKET. AUSTRALIA IS WORSER THAN AFGANISTHAN BECAUSE ITS GOVERNMENT BELIEVES IN ANGLOSAXAN RACISM ANGLO SAXAN NRACISM IS THE MOTHER OF ALL EVILS AND THE ROOT CAUSE OF ALL PROBLEMS THE WORLD NOW FACING. COUNTRIES WHICH PREAC AND PROPAGATE ANGLOSAXAN RACISM ARE TERRORIST COUNTRIES AND ANGLOSAXAN RACISTS ARE TERRORISTS. THEY SHOULD BE DEFEASTED AT ANYCOST EVEN GO FOR A NUCLEAR OPTION EVEN THE WORLD ENDS IT IS BETTER BUT DON'T EVER SPEAR THESE RACIST BASTARDS WHO KILL INNOCENTS.
Other comments from the same paper suggest that Australia has racist elements but are far more balanced, still others defend Australia quite strongly in general or point to very specific Victorian problems. So there is actually quite a good spread in comments, not quite the on-line fury described by the Herald.
I don't know whether this attack was racially motivated and, if so, whether the racial tones came from Anglo-Celtic Australians or (as in the case of the Harris Park attacks) from another ethnic group. We will just have to wait for the police investigation.
As I listened to the radio or read the stories and comments on the case, I just felt that this issue - Indian students in Australia - had spun out of control.
I think that we just have to accept that Australian Governments cannot guarantee the universal safety of any group, nor can we promise to do so. There is a small violent element in Australian society, there are problems with ethnic tensions and ethnic gangs, as well as socially deprived young people of all types. When Governments respond (as they have) with statements and promises that are in fact undeliverable, any subsequent failures simply makes things worse.
I also think that we have to accept that the issue including the media treatment has done Australia medium term damage. It's not just the fall in Indian student numbers, but the way in which the issue has reinforced stereotypes about Australia.
To argue, as some Australian have done, that Australians are more at risk in India than Indians in Australia is a tit for tat argument that completely misses the point. This is actually an Australian domestic policy issue that needs to be dealt with here, independent of international reactions or issues. My key point here is that we cannot control Indian or international reactions, we can only control what we do or say.
I will comment on this in more detail later. In the meantime, I want to make a purely personal comment on something that I do not understand. Why Indian students?
I have known Indian people nearly all my life, around fifty years in fact. I have drunk with them, argued with them (Indians love an argument!), been to parties with them and to family gatherings.
There are very deep links between the sub-continent and Australia dating back to the very early days of white settlement. Of course there was a racial undertone in the old Empire, but Australians and Indians interacted on a regular basis and shared many common things. I have my own Indian stereotypes, but I have always felt Indians were family.
The fact that this problem should arise with Indian students completely blind-sided me. Has Australia lost so much of its past that we no longer feel the connection?