India’s tourism minister cancelled her trip to Australia in June last year over attacks on Indian students studying in the smallest continent of the world. Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan turned down an honorary degree offered by one of the Australian universities. And now, Shiv Sena, has decided that it will not allow Australia to play cricket matches on the Indian soil (they will not allow matches in Mumbai or Maharashtra for sure, elsewhere they might dig up the pitches!).
What exactly is going on? Facts say that there have been attacks on Indian students in Australia. Facts also suggest that the frequency of attacks and their number has gone up. And it is no rocket science to know that this issue has already strained the relations between the two countries and in all likelihood will harm them further. Then why is time being wasted on debating whether these attacks are racial or not.
Irrespective of the nature, the fact remains that violence has increased and quite a few number of Indians have been targeted. How does Australia explain the series of attacks against Indians? Isn’t it time that we stop the sham and stop wondering whether these attacks have a racial bent to them or not? Isn’t it time for a “real”, “honest” and “immediate” investigation(s) to be carried out?
Let us analyse the situation with a null hypothesis that these attacks are not racial in nature. In the recent years, the number of Indian students thronging Australia for higher studies has increased manifolds. Can I here safely say that Australia is not the top destination for higher studies? And should we safely assume that it is not the best of the students who land up in the OZ land? Also, a quick opinion poll reveals that almost anyone can have an identity card of an Australian University – grades don’t matter, screening is not a rule. So, most of the students are probably looking to fetch a job in Australia itself before returning home so that they can repay the fees to the lending agencies within a short period. And in all likelihood, the students would be staying in economical places or rather to be blunt, at poorer places. With more certainty we can say that they take up part time jobs to fuel their daily needs. So, for an average Australian, an Indian is a threat who eyes the unskilled job market as a student and then gobbles up the skilled jobs after graduating! The global downturn would have simply added fuel to the entire scenario. Reports also suggest that the violence has been on a rise since the past two years. Can I now say that my null hypothesis is true? No, because I have not actually heard/read of attacks (as often) against any other national in Australia. If not racial, these attacks are “Indian” in nature for sure.
At the cost of digging out the past, I will recall the racial slur of 2008 when a cricket match had strained relations between New Delhi and Sydney. Indian bowler Harbhajan Singh was charged with racially abusing Australia’s all-rounder Andrew Symonds.
Coming back to the students, the moment they land in Australia, it becomes the responsibility of the local authorities to take care, protect and make them feel secure. To start with, have some employment rules in place, issue “do/don’t” notifications to foreign students and most importantly, make the admission procedure stringent. And of course, look into the rising crime levels in the country. As far as India is concerned, it needs a reality check. Why are so many students headed towards Australia and why is it a “hot” destination despite not being the “top” destination? India needs to counsel its students about foreign universities. All this will finally fall in place as a natural course of action (hopefully), but as far as the short term is concerned, all of us need to hear from the Australian authorities on these attacks and the culprits should be brought to book.
Treat it as a homicide and proceed further, we can talk about OZ’s “downplay” and India’s “hysteria” sometime later.