Don’t cry racism for every attack, says Australia (Lead)

February 3rd, 2010 - 5:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Melbourne/New Delhi, Feb 3 (IANS) Australia Wednesday criticised the Indian media and called for “some balance in reporting” after an Indian national who claimed to have been attacked was found to have accidentally set himself on fire while attempting to torch his car to falsely claim insurance.
Victoria state premier John Brumby and Australian High Commissioner in India Peter Varghese objected to the portrayal of the attacks against Indians as being racist and said it projected Australia in a negative light.

The comments came after police alleged that Jaspreet Singh, 29, who had Jan 8 claimed he was set alight by unknown assailants near his home, had accidentally burnt himself while setting fire to his car for an insurance claim.

Jaspreet Singh, who said he was attacked in a Melbourne suburb, was charged with making a false report to the police and criminal damage with a view to gaining financial advantage.

Brumby told reporters in Melbourne: “I think I’ll make a couple of comments and in a sense they go, as much as anything, to the way the Indian media and, to a lesser extent, some representatives in the Indian government, portray these events.”

He also referred to the death of Ranjodh Singh whose body was found on the side of a road in New South Wales Dec 29 last year.

“I think the point needs to be made that the people who have been charged with that murder are both Indians,” Australian news agency AAP quoted Brumby as saying.

“And we’ve had this (Jaspreet Singh) case, which attracted a lot of attention in India, and police have charged an individual with setting fire to himself.

“So I hope that there is some balance to the debate, some balance to the reporting in India and certainly to date that balance hasn’t been there.”

In India, Australian envoy Peter Varghese said: “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.”

Varghese said in a statement that the incident in which Jaspreet Singh claimed to have been set alight near his home in Melbourne was reported 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,” he said.

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

The Australian envoy said more than 50 people had 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.

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