Death of two Indians: Govt should prove it’s not racial

The brutal killing of two Indians, Nitin Garg and Ranjodh Singh in Melbourne and Griffith, respectively, last week has revived the debate that whether the attacks were racially motivated or just a law and order problem. In both the cases, it is not good for the image of the Australian Government. The attacks are happening despite the assurances by top political leaders, including the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, who is also the Education Minister.

The Indian Government has once again threatened of strong action that will affect one of the biggest revenue earning industries for the Australian Government — education. To begin with let’s presume the attacks are racially motivated, it is then up to the Australian government or the police to prove it otherwise.

According to a combined universities survey conducted recently, one in five Australians has been a victim of racist verbal abuse such as offensive slang names for different cultural groups, or swearing and offensive gestures, while 11 per cent feel they don’t belong or are inferior. An 85 per cent say racial prejudice exists in the nation. The study found that 6.5 per cent of the 16,000 Australians surveyed were against multiculturalism.

The controversial former Telstra chief Sol Trujillo who quit recently, described Australia, he called home for four years as racist, backward and like “stepping back in time”. He had told BBC in an interview: “I think it was evident in a lot of ways with me personally but more importantly with others.” … that [racism] does exist and it’s got to change because the world is full of a lot of people and most economies have to take advantage – including Australia – of a diverse set of people.

Nearly, four years ago, Harmohan Singh Walia, a Federal candidate for Labour party during the previous elections, was assaulted and his turban thrown on ground and was called Taliban by some teenagers at a railway station when he was returning from work. Quite recently, an employee of City Rail was meted out a similar treatment in a bus early morning in Seven Hills when he was going for work.

Recently, the Sydney film festival was held and there was no Indian film shown in the event when India is the largest producer of feature films. Similarly, India was not invited to the Sydney Writers’ Festival when this year’s Bookers’ Prize winner was an Indian.

A couple of years ago, the Howard Government started citizenship test ostensibly to make the immigrants integrate with Australian society. Everyone opposed the test terming that the integration is a two-way process and unless the white Australians do not understand other cultures, integration is not complete.

Australia is multi-cultural country and this has been emphasised by various political leaders at various functions and occasions. A beginning to this effect was made soon after the 9/11 incident, when a public reception was orgainsed by the New South Wales Government for the Imam of the New York mosque. This was done to show to world that Australia was multi-cultural. But the “public” reception held at the St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney was attended only by political leaders, including Premier Bob Carr, Police and Army top brass and other dignitaries.

There are Multicultural Affairs ministries and ministers with similar portfolios in each state and there is no Indian function which they would miss and where they are not in praise of India, its culture and people. The prominent among them being, Mr. Laurie Ferguson and Ms. Virginia Judge, who has spent her childhood in Jor Bagh area of New Delhi and quite often wears a sari and a bindi on her forehead. Both of them have a very good understanding of India and Indian culture.

The message of multi-culturalism, it seems, is confined only to the political level and does not percolate to the community or grass-root level as is evident from the above few mentioned incidents. In most cases of violence/attacks, it is the wayward teenagers who enjoy the legal ‘immunity’ and are not disciplined either by their schools (if they are attending at all) or their parents.

Legal Freedom: In law, the term minor (also infant or infancy) is used to refer to a person who is under the age in which one legally assumes adulthood and is legally granted rights afforded to adults in society. Depending on the jurisdiction and application, this age may vary, but is usually marked at either18, 20, or 21. Specifically, the status of minor is defined by the age of majority.]

In countries like Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, a minor is a person under 20 years of age. In many countries, including Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Brazil and Croatia, a minor is presently defined as a person under the age of 18. In the United States, where the age of majority is set by the individual states, minor usually refers to someone under the age of 18, but can be used in certain areas (such as gambling and the consuming of alcohol) to define someone under the age of 21.

In Australia, there are several gradations of responsibility before full legal adulthood. Those under age ten are free of all criminal responsibility under the doli incapax doctrine of UK legal tradition. Those under the age of fourteen are presumed incapable of responsibility, but this can be disputed in court. The age of full legal responsibility is 18 except Queensland where it is 17. The age of majority in all states and territories is 18.

Under the provisions of Australian laws, a minor can only be cautioned and no charges can be laid against him. The Police officer can only informally advise the offending minor or in some serious cases have meeting with the parents or carers. Hence, we see spurt in reported cases of racist or opportunistic attacks.

Indians take a lead: In order to inculcate an understanding of different cultures, the Indians have led the way. The Indians observed the martyrdom day of Guru Tegbahadur by distributing drinks at various locations in Sydney CBD (In India chabeels are set up to distribute sharbat). They also distributed reading materials among members of different communities so that these communities can have an understanding of the cultures of other communities living in Australia.

The Government should be thinking something on these lines while strengthening the criminal laws.

 The onus is on the Government who is seeking heavy fees from the international students and providing them no facility. The universities are enrolling these students but there is no provision of accommodation no travel concession unlike local students who are paying less than the half fees. It most cases, the number of students is greater than the hostel accommodation available. In fact, there should be a law that a university should not be allowed to enrol international students if they do not have enough hostel accommodation.

Last year, in the wake of the attacks on Indian students, a string of meetings, conferences had been organised and assurance of safety was given. Yet these assurances failed to get translated in to action.

The community can understand that one-to-one policing is not possible in any country; at least the government can formulate strict laws that could instill a fear in the minds of the perpetrators of crime.

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About Ashok Kumar

Ashok Kumar is an accomplished journalist with over 38 years of experience in the profession in various capacities. He was a sub-editor in Patriot and later Chief Sub-editor in The Hindustan Times, New Delhi. He has several published articles and reports in Patriot and HT. Published reports in The Blacktown Sun in Sydney. He had also been a tutor in journalism in the University of Western Sydney. He is currently Editor at The Indian Sub-continent Times, Sydney.

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