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Attacks, protests and now arrests as authorities call for restraint PDF Print E-mail

© Neena Bhandari

ImageSYDNEY, June 10: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has warned against forming vigilante groups even as two Indian men were arrested after a second night of protests against alleged racial attacks in the western Sydney suburb of Harris Park.

"I fully support hardline measures in response to any act of violence towards any student anywhere - Indian or otherwise….It's unacceptable for any student group to believe they can take the law into their own hands and engage in so-called retribution attacks or vigilante action," Rudd told 3AW radio.

Pointing out that Australians have been victims of crime when they visit India, Rudd said, "In the last decade I was advised we had, I think, up to 20 Australians who had either been murdered or had various forms of assault committed against them. That is not the result of Australians being targeted in India, that's just a fact of violence in cities around the world, so I do think we need some balance in this debate."

On Tuesday night, about 70 Indian men blocked an intersection in Harris Park, where Indians have complained of assaults and muggings by ethnic Lebanese, to protest against inadequate police protection amidst a wave of attacks on Indian overseas students in Sydney and Melbourne.

Two men were arrested and while one was later released without charge, the other was served a notice to appear in court later this month.

"We are contributing to the real community, we are paying the taxes, we are doing everything that is possible and we are getting bashed up," Rippon Singh, an overseas student who participated in the protest, told local media.

In a special message broadcast Wednesday on SBS (Special Broadcasting Service) Radio’s Hindi service, Indian High Commissioner Sujatha Singh and Consul Generals of India in Sydney and Melbourne assured the students that their safety and security was paramount, and appealed for calm and restraint and to abstain from taking the law in their own hands.

Authorities in both countries have urged overseas students to concentrate on their studies rather than retaliate.

Calling for calm, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told ABC Television, "It may well take some time to bring these matters entirely under control but we're working very assiduously and closely with the Indian government on it. But I simply echo the comments of my Indian counterpart - the time has now come for restraint, the time has come for calm."

In Melbourne, which has 47 per cent of the total Indian overseas students enrolled in Australian educational institutions, mounted police, dog squads and police helicopters will be targeting problem train stations in the city's west and south-east in a major crackdown on crime announced Wednesday.

Reiterating that while Indian students had been targeted, the attacks were part of a broader problem of street violence, Victoria’s Chief Police Commissioner, Simon Overland said, "The message is to reassure the Victorian community that we understand that there is a significant issue here that we take it seriously”.

Students are being warned against taking vigilante action and instead urged to protect themselves by travelling in groups and considering alternative transport.

Meanwhile, Melbourne-based editor of Indian Student magazine, Thiruvallam Bhasi, has written to India's Prime Minister to intervene and redress the problems facing Indian overseas students.

© Copyright Neena Bhandari. All rights reserved. Republication, copying or using information from any content is expressly prohibited without  the permission of the writer and the news agency through which the article is syndicated. 

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