Attacks on Indians ‘fact of urban life’, says Rudd (Second Lead)

June 10th, 2009 - 5:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Kevin Rudd Sydney, June 10 (IANS) The unending attacks on Indian students in Australia are a “regrettable fact of urban life”, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Wednesday, warning Indians not to avenge the assaults on them.
“The truth is, in our cities right across the country, there are acts of violence every day,” Rudd was quoted in newspaper Australian as saying. “That’s just a regrettable fact of urban life.”

Rudd said he condemned violence against any person - “Chinese, Indian, Queenslanders, anybody”.

Calling on people to “draw breath and calm down”, Rudd said Australia was “one of the safest countries in the world” for international students.

“Everyone needs just to draw some breath on this and we need to see a greater atmosphere of general calm,” Rudd said.

“Let’s get our statistics right. Australians in India at any time run the risk also of some violence. In the last decade I was advised we had, I think, up to 20 Australians who have either been murdered or had various forms of assault committed against them.

“Now that is not the result of Australians being targeted in India. That’s just a fact of violence in cities all around the world,” he said.

The prime minister’s comments followed reports that beleaguered Indian students had formed vigilante groups in Melbourne and Sydney.

Even as Indian students protested for the second day here against the alleged racial attacks, one man was charged with carrying an offensive weapon. Around 70 protesters blocked traffic in the Sydney suburb of Harris Park, where Indians have complained of assaults and muggings by ethnic Lebanese.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna have also called for calm among the more than 90,000 Indians studying in Australia.

At least 11 Indians have been attacked or mugged in Australia in the past month leading to students alleging that they are cases of “curry bashing”.

DPA adds: In Melbourne, which has the bulk of the Indian student community, student leaders claimed victory when police cracked down on crime at the train stations where vigilante groups had formed to protect the late-night commuters who have been the targets of attacks.

“We’ve already been doing a lot of work to tackle the growing trend of street robberies over the past 18 months,” Victorian Chief Police Commissioner Simon Overland said.

“We’ve certainly not been sitting on our hands with this issue and this increased enforcement will further bolster our already concerted efforts.”

Police argue that young Indians are more likely to be the victims of crime because many help pay for their studies by working in petrol stations, convenience stores or as taxi drivers and so are using public transport late at night.

But others have urged the authorities to acknowledge that racism is a root cause of the attacks.

“Racially motivated attacks target specific groups, not the general population,” said Goldie Osuri of Sydney’s Macquarie University. “The problem is endemic and needs to be addressed.”

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