India calls for swift action against attacks in Australia

India calls for swift action against attacks in Australia
30 May 2009, 0908 hrs IST, TNN

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New Delhi,May 30: As incidents of violence against its students in Australia continue unabated, an angry India called upon authorities in that country to take swift measures to stop the atrocity.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh raised the issue with his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd. The Australian PM had called Singh to congratulate him for having taken over again as prime minister, but that did not prevent Singh from taking up the issue with him.

While Rudd assured Singh that Australian authorities were doing their best to prevent such attacks, foreign ministry summoned Australian high commissioner John McCarthy to express its anguish over rising incidents of violence against Indians.

On Friday, another attack on an Indian student was reported, this time from Sydney in New South Wales.

McCarthy was called by secretary (east) in the MEA N Ravi to convey India’s concern over the attacks. Sources said it was conveyed to McCarthy in no uncertain terms that it was the responsibility of Australian authorities to ensure safety of Indian students.

“It was conveyed to the Australian high commissioner that continuing sense of unease and insecurity for Indian students in Australia can have an adverse effect, in a sector that holds much promise.

Certain steps that the Australian side could take, in addition to those that they have initiated, were also discussed and conveyed to the high commissioner,” said the MEA in a statement.

“We are worried about the safety of Indian citizens, particularly the students,” foreign minister S M Krishna said later. He too raised the issue with Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith when he called up Krishna to congratulate him.

Krishna said the Indian government was in constant touch with Australian authorities “with a view to addressing issues concerning the well-being and physical safety of our students”.

In his conversation with Singh, Rudd assured him that an overwhelming majority of Indian students were safe and that he was taking the issue very seriously.

Responding to attacks on Australian students, overseas Indian affairs minister Vayalar Ravi said, “We will be getting a report from the Australian high commissioner. My immediate task is to set up an institutional mechanism to deal with such incidents.”

McCarthy said after his meeting with MEA officials that the attacks appeared more like criminal activity than racist. He said Australia has been taking a number of measures to “diminish” the prospects of such attacks taking place in the future.

McCarthy said his discussion officials in the ministry had with him was “absolutely justified” and he would convey those views to authorities in Australia.

In a fresh incident of attack, 25-year-old Rajesh Kumar suffered 30% burns after a petrol bomb was hurled at his home in Sydney.

Australia on Friday arrested five teenagers in connection with the recent assaults on Indian students and charged one of them with attempted murder.

A 17-year-old boy was charged with attempted murder after four Indian students, including 25-year-old Sravan Kumar, were attacked by gatecrashers at a party here over the weekend, Victorian police said, adding another 18-year-old was quizzed in relation to the assault, but has since been released. Kumar remains critical.

The arrests came after Indian High Commissioner Sujata Singh said the spate of assaults targeting Indian students in Australia have to “stop now” and asserted that racism was a factor in some of the incidents.

“The fact of the matter is that whatever the motive behind the attacks, they seem to be Indian students. There is a racist element in some of the attacks but many of the attacks are opportunistic,” she said.

Singh, along with the Consul General in Melbourne, had detailed meetings, with the Premier of the State of Victoria, John Brumby, and other ministers – as also police officials on Thursday.

Brumby himself said that Victoria alone received 47,000 students last year from India and “it’s paramount that their education experience and life experience in our state is positive”.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he was horrified at the attacks but defended the police response. “Any act of violence, any decent human being just responds with horror at the sorts of attack which have occurred recently…but the key thing is to make sure our law enforcement authorities are doing the best they can. I am confident they are,” he was quoted as saying by the AFP.

Education minister Julia Gillard said on Friday that the Australian government will not tolerate victimisation and violence against international students.

“I can assure you that the perpetrators of recent attacks in both Sydney and Melbourne will face the full force of the law and I will be working closely with the Victorian and New South Wales State Governments to ensure every effort is made to minimise the possibility of such attacks in the future,” said the minister.