Australian PM warns Indian students over revenge attacks

Sydney, June 10: A second night of protests by Indian students over perceived racially motivated violence against them prompted Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to warn Wednesday against the formation of vigilante groups.
“I fully support hardline measures in response to any act of violence towards any student anywhere – Indian or otherwise,” Rudd said. “And furthermore we also need to render as completely unacceptable people taking the law into their own hands.”

One man was charged with carrying an offensive weapon as around 70 protesters again blocked traffic in the Sydney suburb of Harris Park, where Indians have complained of assaults and muggings carried out by ethnic Lebanese.

“Everyone needs just to draw some breath on this and we need to see a greater atmosphere of general calm,” Rudd said.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna have also called for calm among the more than 90,000 Indians studying in Australia.

In Melbourne, which has the bulk of the Indian student community, student leaders claimed victory when police launched a crackdown on crime at the train stations where earlier in the week vigilante groups had formed to protect the late-night commuters who have been the targets of attacks.

“We’ve already been doing a lot of work to tackle the growing trend of street robberies over the past 18 months,” Victorian Chief Police Commissioner Simon Overland said. “We’ve certainly not been sitting on our hands with this issue and this increased enforcement will further bolster our already concerted efforts.”

Police argue that young Indians are more likely to be the victims of crime because many help pay for their studies by working in petrol stations, convenience stores or as taxi drivers and so are using public transport late at night.

But others have urged the authorities to acknowledge that racism is a root cause of the attacks.

“Racially motivated attacks target specific groups, not the general population,” said Goldie Osuri of Sydney’s Macquarie University. “The problem is endemic and needs to be addressed.”