Act now

Yet another attack on an Indian in Australia has exposed the repeated assurances of the Australian government that it would take effective action to prevent such attacks on Indian students as hollow. The latest act of violence, this time on a Punjabi youth, Nithin Garg, on his way to work resulted in death and this is the first time such attacks have become murderous. That marks a new level in the growing offensive against Indians in that country. Over a hundred students have till now been attacked, creating fear and even panic among the Indian community in Australia and their relatives back home.  Many Indians who study in Australia have to simultaneously work also to finance their studies. They are attacked when they go to or return from work and the incidents have increased now.

The Australian government has denied that the attack on Nithin Garg was racial. But Deputy Prime Minister Julian Gillard, who made the denial, has not been able to explain why most of the victims of the attacks have been Indians. The Australian high commissioner’s statement that most such attacks are ‘opportunistic’ is also not convincing. Australia takes pride in being “a nation that overwhelmingly is an open, tolerant, multi-cultural, welcoming society”. But the continuing attacks belie that claim.

Every time an attack takes place the provincial and federal governments issue statements that show them as not very serious, accompanied however with promises to prevent them. But they keep recurring. The increasing violence has also been attributed to social unrest as a result of layoffs in the wake of recession. But denials and explanations do not change the situation on the streets.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna has conveyed to the Australian government India’s anger and warned that such incidents could vitiate the atmosphere of trust and spoil the good relations between the two countries. India has also issued a travel advisory to Australia warning students that they face an increased danger of attacks there.

Australia’s reputation as an educational destination has also been spoiled. There are more than one lakh Indian students in that country. But the visa applications from Indian students have fallen recently. This is because of the attacks on students and the unscrupulous practices of some of the institutions that take in students. The Australian government needs to take effective action on both these fronts and India should increase diplomatic pressure for this to happen.

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