Aussie envoy flays Indian media over ‘race’ attacks

February 3rd, 2010 - 4:37 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 3 (IANS) Australian High Commissioner Peter Varghese Wednesday said the charging of an Indian national in Melbourne for making a false allegation of racism “again demonstrated how wrong initial media reports” could be.
“Australia has zero tolerance for violence and zero tolerance for racism. Both are reflected in Australian law, and in the penalties the courts are handing out,” he said in a statement here.

His comments came after Australian police said a man of Indian descent who claimed he was doused in petrol and set alight last month was not the victim of a racist attack but injured himself while setting his car alight in a failed attempt at claiming insurance money.

Varghese said the incident, in which Jaspreet Singh claimed to have been set alight near his home in Melbourne, was reported around the world as a racist attack.

“It had done serious damage to Australia’s image in India. It had fuelled the view that Indians had been singled out for racist attacks in Australia,” said the statement.

He said the police investigation had concluded that no such attack had occurred.

“Police have charged him with making a false report to police and criminal damage with a view to gaining financial advantage,” he added.

Quoting the Australian police, Varghese said Singh had “deliberately set fire to his car to claim Australian $11,000 insurance, but inadvertently burned himself in the process”.

He said the arrest, together with the arrest Jan 29 of three Indian nationals for the murder of Ranjodh Singh, should be a lesson to all not to cry “racism” every time something bad happened to an Indian national in Australia.

“Both cases had been widely reported in the Indian media as racist attacks,” he added, hoping that “those (who) carried such reports would now set the record straight”.

Providing an update on actions taken by Australian police, the Australian envoy said more than 50 people have been arrested so far in connection with cases involving Indian nationals.

“The Indian public should be assured that the perpetrators will be punished, but please let the police and the courts get on with their work,” he added.

Varghese said it was important to “treat each incident seriously” but also “cautioned against judging the nation or the Australian community by the actions of a criminal minority.”

He rejected claims that these attacks reflected community hostility against Indians.

“Australia and India have so much in common, and so many common and growing interests. The Indian community in Australia has been one of the most successful of Australia’s many immigrant communities.

“It is time we moved on from such simplistic and damaging reporting which only serves to increase the level of anxiety of Indian students in Australia and their relatives in India,” he added.

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