Page last updated at 16:05 GMT, Friday, 8 January 2010

Indians and Australians discuss deepening row

The past year of attacks on Indian students in Australia has made headlines in India and caused diplomatic relations to sour between the two countries.

India's Mail Today ran a cartoon depicting Australian police as members of the racist Ku Klux Klan, which Australia condemned as "deeply offensive".

The row poses a threat to Australia's lucrative international education industry. Australia has published figures indicating the number of Indians wanting to study in the country has plummeted by 46%.

Here, Indians and Australians discuss the nature of the attacks and the effects the deepening row will have on their communities.

Lawrence Berry, student, Adelaide
Lawrence Berry

Being half-Indian half-Australian and being part of both communities, I believe that I can give a balanced opinion. I stand by the Victoria Police in saying that they are not racist.

Attacks occur in all large cities and not just to people of South Asian origin. I find that Indians here in Australia are unnecessarily paranoid about racism and are quick to come to that conclusion.

It is not uncommon for Indian students to live in high crime-rate areas and work late at night which essentially makes them sitting ducks for opportunistic criminals.

I have a great respect for the police and I along with most other Australians find these racism accusations deeply offensive. If the Indian media think that insulting Australia will help improve the situation, they are greatly mistaken. If anything, such accusations create contempt for the Indian community among Australians.

Australia as a whole is a multicultural society and one unfortunate murder in a small part of the country shouldn't throw into doubt the liberal acceptance different racial groups enjoy throughout the country.

Dilip Varma, IT worker, Sydney
Cartoon showing hooded KKK-like figure with Victoria Police badge - image from Mail Today
The cartoon appeared in the 5 January edition of Delhi's Mail Today

As an Indian immigrant living in Australia for the last 15 years, I have lived through a constant barrage of anti-India propaganda in the Australian media. India is the nation Australians dislike most even though India has not caused Australia any harm.

Therefore I cannot understand Australia's sense of outrage at their portrayal in the Indian media. If the Australian media can show India in a poor light, they should not take offence when the their Indian counterparts do the same to them.

Having said that, I personally haven't had any experiences to suggest that Australian institutions are racist. I've never felt threatened or have been attacked during my time in Australia.

The constant annoying factor is the relentless patronisation I face. I am told that I did not have enough to eat in India. I am considered an upper caste reactionary whose only thought is to oppress untouchables and women.

I have been told many times that I should be ashamed to be Indian. I see this as a consequence of the constant anti-Indian bias and untruths in Australian reports on India.

Pratul Birla, businessman, Calcutta, India
Pratul Birla

People in India have had pleasant perceptions about Australia until the last couple of years, when these attacks started to happen. These stories get big coverage in India, where people have started to realise that there are problems with racism in Australia.

I believe Australia is by large a broad-minded society, but there are pockets of racial disturbances and I think it's the lack of exposure to different cultures that is to blame.

The police have to maintain safety in the society and give feedback to politicians. But they have failed to do so.

The Australian police must understand that the need of the hour is to act and not give unnecessary press conferences. The very fact that they describe themselves as "tolerant" speaks volumes about their way of thinking. "Tolerating" implies that you make an effort, you put up with something unpleasant.

Why are they using this language? Who are they suggesting that they tolerate? People who have been issued visas to study in their country or the criminal minds who attack them?

I think the cartoonist has done an excellent job.

I have got two children studying in the US. I would never send my kids to study in Australia, not after this.

Roy Carter, builder, New South Wales

I am in my early 50s and I've seen racism in Australia throughout all these years. But now it's not as bad as it used to be. There are very small, overtly racist elements, like the Skinheads, that do not represent the Australian society as a whole. They hold no political power.

I've got Indian friends myself and it's my impression that they don't face any problems. But attacks do happen, nobody can deny that and the present situation is intolerable.

The Indian society has every right to be upset about the attacks and I can see the reason behind the cartoon

I don't believe the police are being racist and I don't think they have been intentionally ignoring the situation. Their political masters have too much to lose if this situation continues.

I don't think the state police is taking notice of these small groups, simply because their membership is so miniscule. They are trying to apply a general policing strategy to a specific task that requires a more intelligent approach.

The Indian society has every right to be upset about the attacks and I can see the reason behind the cartoon. I understand their reaction, but it's the wrong reaction. The police force are to blame, but they are not racist, they are simply incompetent. It's about time due diligence was applied to the issue.

I am embarrassed and I would like to apologise to the Indian people as a whole.

Peter Whitehurst, retired, Perth

I don't feel offended by the cartoon, but I don't agree with it. It's trying to send the message that Australia is racist.

The main issue about the attacks is not about racism, it's all about general robbery and drunkenness. There's no racial intimidation, not in the majority of cases anyway. People are simply being attacked because they are being robbed of something that they have.

And it's not just South Asian students on the receiving end, people from other countries are being attacked too.

Of course I feel sympathy for them, people shouldn't be attacked anywhere, but these attacks are happening for a reason.

There's far too much immigration happening too quickly. We need stricter controls, there need to be limits on the number of people coming to the country.

An overflow of immigrants creates problems. They come here and they want to have the lifestyle everybody in Australia enjoys and there's envy. Local people may feel disenfranchised, so that creates tensions.

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