10 misconceptions about attacks on Indians in Melbourne

This is a follow up on my blog entry of ‘Time to get real and wake up to facts’ June 12, 2009. The attacks are now a good couple of months old, but the controversy does not seem to come to an end. Last week, another rally was arranged, mainly by people living in Australia for a long time and were against the idea of Australia being tagged ‘Racist’ by India and Indian students studying here. I am not 100% certain about the outcome of the rally, but I would like to clear some misconceptions about these attacks through my blog. I hope this will clear a lot of people’s minds or even future Indian students planning to come to Australia.

Misconception No. 10: Every Indian is being attacked in Melbourne.

Almost every Indian family has received a phone call from their relatives or friends overseas wondering if they or their children are safe. Looking at the repeated telecast of Indians being hit in a train and headlines such as ‘Indians in danger in Australia’, will make anyone worry for their loved ones. Well, the true fact that apart from a few Indian students, no Indian has been attacked or abused.

Misconception No. 9: Indian students are hated by the Australians

This is not true at all. Australia is a large multi-cultural country and a people from many cultures reside here. A bunch or minority of drug addicts or people looking for loose change at 2 am, cannot be classified as a normal ‘Aussie’. Most Australians are aware that Indians are peace-loving and easy people to deal with. Australians embrace Indian students just as well as students from any other country. A good testimony to that will that ‘most’ Indian students are employed whether at fuel station, restaurant, call centres or professional firm.

Misconception No.8: All Indian students have come to Australia for studying

I do realise that such a statement can create a controversy, but a fact is a fact. A whole lot of students are arriving here with no intention of education. Most these do not have valid pre-requisite educational qualifications background or sound knowledge of English to start any course here. The main motto is to make a quick buck and go back to the country. Can we classify them as students? These are the ones that fall into trouble as they usually end up working till late and stay in areas or suburbs which are not usually the safest.

Misconception No.7: Australians are threatened by the growing number of Indians

Don’t believe this is entirely true. If Australians needs to fear anyone taking over their country, it is not Indians but Asians (Chinese, Vietnamese, Koreans) as they are way more in numbers. Indians are still very controlled in numbers and will never grow as much as to threaten the Australians in their own country.

Misconception No. 6: Every Indian student in Australia is honest and polite

This has been a major problem where most of the Indian students have not been able to grow out of their home-grown habits of ‘not being honest and polite’. They believe that every Australian can be taken for a ride and make sure they try a trick or two of their own. I have myself eye-witnessed these students breaking queues, staring and making comments on girls, not completing a sentence without the use if bad language and most of all taking as loudly as possible or blaring music in public train. The most amusing piece that I’ve heard is of 3 students using 3 empty seats during peak hours on a train to spread their food while people are standing wondering if this is for real. C’mon, common sense is all it takes.

Misconception No.5: Long term Indian residents are against the Indian students

It is extremely easy to make impressions about anyone and anything. Long term Indian residents do not want the Indians to be tagged as ‘the ones who Australia as ‘Racist” as this will change their perception towards Indians for a long time of not forever. The ones those who call Australia home and do not plan to move, fear that this ‘chain of actions’ can create issues for future generations in this country. They are only opposing this so as to avoid any more criminal incidents.

Misconception No. 4: The whole of Melbourne is unsafe.

Melbourne might not be as big of a city as New Delhi or Bombay, but just like these Indian cities, there are safe and unsafe pockets. The areas which are unsafe are well-known to residents and they make sure that do avoid unnecessary presence in such areas at late hours of the night. Indian students or any one general should make sure that they try and stay away from such areas especially when they know they will be finishing work late at night. Avoid contacts with people who are waiting for trouble, and there shall be none !

Misconception No. 3: No assistance was provided to the ones hurt in the attack

Victorian police and government did the best within their capabilities to help the ones attacked.

Misconception No. 2: Indian students were attacked by the policemen

This was shown on TV repeatedly by the Indian media. No doubt, the police had to use a bit of force, after the glass of the precious historical building of the Flinders Station was broken. It was meant to be a peace rally where voices of the Indians were meant to be heard. According to reliable sources, the rally was meant to end by 3 pm after putting forward their demands. This took an ugly turn when the rally was taken over by a different group of people and continued with the rally until the early hours of the morning. Placards of ‘Khalistan Zindabad’ was clearly evident which did not have anything to do with the rally initially. Thus, police had to use force as the peak morning traffic was about to commence. The police was left with no option after issues numerous warnings to use force to clear the area.

Misconception No. 1: Australia is a Racist country

This has been the biggest problem in this problem. I clearly state that these incidents are nothing but ‘chain events gone bad’. One bad incident led to the other ones. I do not agree with the students tagging Australia as Racist at the rally, which then became a global issue of such rally pictures being relayed all around world whether through BBC, CNN et all. If this was a racist country, then it was impossible for so many cultures to survive in one place. I would like to share another piece of information which might help not tagging Australia racist. Australia allows every culture and country to enjoy their religion and festivals. No racial attacks, has ever been witnessed at our Holi/Diwali festivals which attracts over 10,000 people at one venue at one time. All these festivals and cultural organisations are supported and funded by the Australian Govt.

So, lets fight against the crime and not the country that is feeding and possibly for some, their families back in India. Lets unite to help Victorian Police catch the ones those who are trouble-makers and spare tagging the country as harshly as Racist due to some attacks which are not Australian Govt. initiated or intentionally targeted at the Indians. Its purely a case of ‘being at the wrong place at the wrong time’. Period.


10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Pradeep Bhatnagar on July 16, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Well assessed Yash…
    there is an old saying that ‘ those who live in glass-houses should not throw stones at others ‘
    we should all join hands to put an end to these ugly streak of incidents, the culprits who have mastered the attacks should be brought to the book by the Police and prove that these were not ‘racist attacks ‘ but normal criminal attacks similar to many other cities of the world.


  2. Posted by Tushar Bhatnagar on July 16, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Appreciate ur effort over d 10 misconceptions u enlightend..
    dey r well written.. n TRUE n NOT partial to any nationality 🙂 🙂


  3. Posted by Roshan on July 18, 2009 at 10:24 am

    spot on,mate! It is really encouraging to see that people are getting the clear picture now. What the indian media institutions should have done was to bring their correspondents here to aus. instead of reporting from delhi/mumbai using their “reliable sources”. However, the indian community in aus. will grow and help both india and australia……..


  4. Posted by nikhil on July 29, 2009 at 8:04 am

    Hey Yash,

    There are some things I disagree with in point 4.

    You say there are good and bad areas in Melbourne, which is true, as they are in Sydney and all over Australia. Firstly, how would an international student know which ones are they and secondly, once they do find out, how can they get out of those places when accommodation is hard to find, especially after the GFC?

    You also state to avoid people looking for trouble, well if it was only that easy! I once almost got into a fight with a boy around 15 or 16 on the train because I wouldn’t talk to him and yes it was racially motivated as he identified me as indian and an international student like two other indians sitting nearby who were international students.

    Of course looking at him he looked like any other kid on their way home. If you know can spot a person looking for trouble, I suggest you patent your skills and earn millions from it.

    In terms of racism, it may or may not be but the fact of the matter is, indian students take jobs few ‘aussies’ will and hence are easy targets for anyone who perceives to have suffered hardship as a result of this.


  5. Blog is looking great!


  6. Posted by Sam on October 25, 2009 at 1:05 am

    you might be the lucky guy who didn’t get in trouble here, but you have to agree on this that there is unsaid racisms here, you dont get the job you want, you don’t get the house on lease because you are brown, you are treated like an second class citizen, etc and last but not least , This country is not really Multi-cultural yet, if you say so , you haven’t come out of the egg. go to London, Paris, New york you will see the real multi-cultarism.
    you did your college from Victoria University and doing Web designing
    Best of luck


  7. Posted by AP on January 7, 2010 at 7:16 am

    I am sick of being called a racist just because I live in Australia. Why generalise that every Australian is racist?

    The attacks, I think, are due to the fact that the areas they occur in are in a low socio-economic environment and more crime happens in these areas. Footscray is the worst place to live, for example, but I think a lot of Indans live there because it’s cheap.

    I think the media reports these attacks without reporting all the OTHER attacks that happen. They want to sell papers, and this is becoming a hot issue because of media hype.

    Most Australians would not go up and attack people. Only the real criminal nutcases do this.

    I do have some issues with Indians, but they are not racially based, per se. I think there is too much immigration to Australia – the infrastructure can’t cope with the amount of people here. I thought the rally in the Melbourne CBD by Indians was a disgrace and should have been broken up very early.


  8. Posted by phantom on January 10, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    Yash – while I do agree with the bulk of your points, I do have a few of my own.

    Firstly – let us distinguish between the nature of the crime itself, and the cultural sentiments of Australian society as a whole, and of Australia as a nation. It is inappropriate to mix up these issues.

    Were these incidents racially motivated in themselves?? I.e., did the perpetrators conduct the crimes partly or wholly driven by an innate sense of anti-Indian / anti-immigrant / anti-coloured sentiment??? Or was it purely a case of crime against another party, with no consideration of the ethnic makeup of the victim?? I think its fair to say that a knife stab, stabbing a screwdriver into someone’s head, burning someone….these are all pretty extreme crimes and the perpetrator had to be driven by more than just the motive to rob/bully, i.e. there has to have been a significant element of spite and “anger” that motivated the harsh action. As in all the cases the victims were of the same demographic, i..e young Indian international students….its not unlikely that the crimes themselves were indeed motivated by racist tendencies towards Indians.

    But is that in itself such a strange and surprising thing?? In almost all the western countries that have significant migrant populations from the subcontinent and Asia (UK, Canada, USA, Aus, NZ)…there are always going to be segments within the local population that are the “white trash”, i.e. those locals who exist at the lower end of the socio economic spectrum, are lesser educated, often unemployed or on menial jobs, heavy consumers of booze, drugs, often from broken families, and basically familiar to a dysfunctional lifestyle, without the same moral value system as their better educated, more financially stable, white-collar local counterparts. For this segment of the local population, there exists an almost always perpetual sentiment of animosity towards what they perceive as the “outsiders”. It is said that prejudice knows no reason, and within this segment of the local population (be it in London, Birmingham, Toronto, Vancouver, Chicago, LA, NY, Sydney, Auckland or Melbourne)…they are very quick to inculcate an innate dislike for immigrants, owning to them being “different” in skin colour, cultural practise, religion, behavioural tendencies etc. This sentiment of animosity is not helped by the knowledge that these immigrant groups turn out to be upwardly mobile and ambitious, with a propensity to study, save money, move on to better jobs etc. In effect, it is a sentiment of jealousy that drives this feeling of animosity towards these immigrant groups.

    In the case of Indian international students, especially the Punjabis from small town / rural Punjab, who pay hefty fees to get entrance into these vocational courses like hairdressing, pastry chef, metal welding etc….but who actually end up driving cabs, and working in gas stations, fast food joints etc in an almost full time capacity….these students are bound to be very visible to the white trash segment of the population. Given Australia and specifically Melbourne’s history of having third/fourth generation Greek, Italian, Lebanese, Turkish migrant groups…there is also bound to be a “trash” segment in these communities too, especially (I’m told) among the lebansese, Italian and greek communities. It is therefore not too difficult to imagine a scenario where certain youth from this “trash” segment of aussie population (be it white, aboriginal, greek, Italian, Lebanese etc), in a collective sentiment of animosity against Indians (as representing the disliked “outsiders), choose to pick on an isolated indian. This is nothing but bullying. Given that many of these Indian students tend to live in the poorer areas which tend to have lots of these youths from the “trash” segment to begin with, and with the Indian students working in jobs that require them to work till late, drive home late, walk on the streets late at night etc….its no surprise that they become prime targets for the “bullies”.

    But does the actions of a certain segment of the population speak for the cultural sentiments of an entire city/nation?? Probably not, is my honest answer. It really all depends on who one interacts with. When dialoguing with an educated, white-collar type aussie, I have found them to be as multi-cultural, cosmopolitan, culturally accepting and tolerant as any other white OECD country. If this segment possesses some innate misgivings about migrant communities, then that is no different to the misgivings that Indians have about other cultures…but this segment is polite and intelligent enough to NOT ACT on their misgivings.

    Are there racial undertones among aussie mainstream culture/ corporate sector?? YES, and it is the same in the UK, Canada, USA or ANY country. Even in India we have cultural favouritism and cultural chauvism. Japan and Western European societies are very open about their regard for migrant communities. Urban USA is probably the most egalitarian and multi-cultural environment there is, where a freshly arrived migrant has literally as much opportunity as someone who has lived there for generations. Australia has been seeing migration from India relatively recently. It is only a matter of time, as Indians entrench themselves more into aussie society, before we see Indians truly progressive in the upper echelons of the corporate sector, business and in other domains (e.g. sports, culture etc).

    But all said and done, it is not fair to label Aus a racist country or racist society per se. It is probably more fair to say that certain elements of aussie society are racist, and this is no different from neo Nazis in UK/Europe, rednecks in the US/Canada.


    • Posted by AP on January 11, 2010 at 2:14 am

      Very well said Phantom. So refreshing to read a well thought out, gramatically correct and interesting post instead of the usual un-punctuated ramblings one often has to wade through on the internet.

      You have put forward some excellent points (which I agree with) and thus have created a good atmosphere in which rational people can discuss this hot issue calmly.

      All your points must bring us to the conclusion that most Australians are NOT racists at all.


  9. Posted by Sanjiv on March 10, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Well written Yash. The point by point clarification has been very useful. All said and done, I and my family are coming over to Melbourne on a skilled PR visa in April 2010. Will finding a house / apartment on rent be difficult initially as we will not be having any job ? Please advice how to go about it …


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