Thousands protest attacks on Indians in Australia (Lead)

May 31st, 2009 - 3:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Melbourne, May 31 (IANS) Thousands of Indian and Australian students gathered outside the Victorian parliament Sunday to protest a string of attacks on Indians in Australia that many say are racially motivated.
The students, including many from other Asian countries, shouted slogans against the Australian government and the police for failing to protect the Indian students.

The students were joined by many members of the Indian community from all over Melbourne.

The rally was organised by the Federation of Indian Students of Australia (FISA) and the Melbourne University’s Graduate Student Association.

The protest followed growing anger in the community over the assaults on Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney that have left one of the students battling for life.

Graduate Student Association president Paul Coats called on the Australian government to immediately implement a policy aimed at curbing the “growing culture of racial intolerance”.

“I am opposed to calls for more police as it appears that the police have been part of the problem… They blame Indian students for ‘making themselves targets’ rather than blaming the climate of racism in Australia and racist governments that exploit Indian international students through the commodification of education,” Coats told the Herald Sun.

“The purpose (of the protest) is to create awareness about an increasing number of hate crimes within the state and to promote racial harmony and peace,” FISA said in a statement Saturday.

It appealed to Australians to support people from different ethnic backgrounds. There are over 80,000 Indian students in Australia.

There have been four attacks on Indian students in quick succession, with the first incident reported May 9 and the most recent one Monday.

Hospitality graduate Rajesh Kumar received 30 percent burns a week ago after someone hurled a petrol bomb through the window of his Harris Park home in Sydney.

Three attacks on Indian students took place in Melbourne.

Sravan Kumar Theerthala, 25, was assaulted a week ago with three other students. The attackers allegedly hurled racist abuses at the Indians and hit Theerthala with a screwdriver.

Another Indian student, Baljinder Singh, was robbed and stabbed Monday.

The victim had left a railway station when two men carrying weapons approached him and demanded money. As he searched through his bag, he was stabbed in the abdomen.

Sourabh Sharma, 21, was beaten by a group of young men as he travelled on a train May 9. Sharma suffered a fractured cheek bone and a broken tooth in the attack, captured on closed circuit television cameras.

He said he was racially abused and robbed during the attack.

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