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Australian PM slams attacks on Indians, promises action

June 1, 2009 13:06 IST

Australian PM slams attacks on Indians

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Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Monday termed the spate of attacks on Indian students as 'deplorable' and assured that his government was working to bring those responsible to justice "as a matter of urgency".

 

Rudd told the Parliament that he has spoken to his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh about the attacks. "I speak on behalf of all Australians when I say that we deplore and condemn these attacks," he said.

 

"I said to Prime Minister Singh that Indian students in Australia are welcome guests in our country" he said, adding that the government will work closely with the states and territories "as a matter of urgency" to work on ways to help international students feel safer.

 

Meanwhile, opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull described the attacks as "profoundly un-Australian".

 

"These students are guests in our country and this recent violent behaviour has the potential to do great damage to the reputation of Australia as a destination of choice," he said. Commenting on the issue, trade Minister Simon Crean said that Indian authorities had raised concerns about students being targeted more than a year ago. He said their complaints were being taken up seriously.

 

"There's no point sending your loved ones here to study if they feel under threat," Crean said. "I think that this has been an issue that we've tried to address now for a number of months. We will continue to work on it; I think we can get on top of it."

 

Rudd also told the Parliament "the Australian government is committed to developing a stronger, closer relationship with India ... (we are) also committed to the safety of all Australians and all those that visit our nation."

 

He said the Commonwealth is working with state governments to ensure that the perpetrators of the crimes are 'brought to justice'.

 

"Australia is a country of great diversity, harmony and tolerance. We are a multicultural nation and we respect and embrace diversity, diversity which has enriched our nation," Rudd added.


Image: Indians living in Australia protest against the recent spate of racial attacks in Melbourne
Photographs: Mick Tsikas/Reuters
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18 Indian youths detained

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Meanwhile, approximately 18 youths were detained for allegedly 'breaching peace' during a rally by Indian students demanding justice for the victims of racial attacks in Australia.

Thousands of students, shaken by a wave of racial assaults, called off their protest at 5.15 am (local time). The protestors, who blocked the busiest street of the city, have accused the police of 'ramrodding' them to break up their sit-in, according to media reports.

"There are constant discussions with the Australian authorities with regard to the safety and security of our students," said Anita Nayyar, Indian Consulate General in Melbourne.

Nayyar said she had no information about any student being hurt in the  rally and added that the identity of the 18 detained protestors was not known. "I assume everyone has a right to express themselves, but within Australian laws," she said.

The 'peace rally' was organised by bodies like Federation of Indian Students in Australia and National Union of Students.

The protest was kicked off on Sunday outside the Royal Melbourne Hospital, where Shravan Kumar, 25, is in a critical condition after being stabbed by a screwdriver by a group of teens. The protestors claim that the violent attacks on Indians in Australia are racially motivated.

FISA founder Gautam Gupta said the peace rally was 'hijacked' by some of trouble makers and they were not even the part of the student associations. Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland agreed to Gupta's claim, saying the protest appeared to have been 'hijacked' by a group of trouble maker.


Image: Indians living in Australia protest against the recent spate of racial attacks in Melbourne
Photographs: Mick Tsikas/Reuters
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Authorities justify use of force

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The protestors, who were not Indians, had also joined the demonstration and some of them were drunk, he said. Meanwhile, Gupta said FISA had no plans to organise rallies in the future.

Overland, according to TV channels, justified the use of force on the demonstrators. "I watched the whole event -- I didn't see any inappropriate use of force," he said, adding "Now in that, there were blows because many (of the protesters) had been linked and resistance was going on. If someone inadvertently got hit in the mouth, I regret that, but that came about from the actions of the demonstrators after they had been given every opportunity to leave the area."

Overland said the protestors had 'made their point' and been given repeated opportunities to disperse before the police took action. The police officer said the Indian students had petitioned him with a range of requests, including increased police action against those inciting racial attacks and curbing binge-drinking.

"One of my officers was bitten on the hand and suffered an injury as a result of that," he said. "There was some violence, it could have been a lot worse, but overall I think we got out of it quite well," he added.


Image: Indians living in Australia protest against the recent spate of racial attacks in Melbourne
Photographs: Mick Tsikas/Reuters
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'Non-Indians were involved'

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One protestor was arrested for assault and another charged on summons for throwing objects through windows at Flinders Street station on Sunday, he said.

"I think their demonstration was hijacked -- it initially started as a peaceful demonstration," Overland said.

"The organisers of that demonstration then left. There were other people who became involved, most of them weren't Indians. They were there for their own reasons, and I think the whole thing just got hijacked and got out of control," he said.


Image: Indians living in Australia protest against the recent spate of racial attacks in Melbourne
Photographs: Mick Tsikas/Reuters
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