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Indian student complains of racial attack in moving bus

July 22, 2010 14:49 IST

An Indian student was racially assaulted in a jam-packed bus in Melbourne by a group of three youngsters, who repeatedly hit him and also threw chicken pieces at him, in yet another attack on the youths from the community in Australia.

Twenty-four-year-old Rajan Kumar Katkam, who arrived in Melbourne in 2008 to pursue a course in graphics, has filed a case with the office of Victims of Crime following the incident which forced him to defer his studies.

"I was travelling on a bus to Rye from Frankston at 2.30 pm (local time) when three youths who were apparently drunk started harassing me," Rajan said, adding that one of the members first started hitting him while the others threw chicken pieces at him.

According to Rajan, who is returning home next month, "They (attackers) said that black people want to be equal and that's why they are getting bashed."

No one has been charged so far over the incident, which took place in February. The case was filed immediately and it is believed that a video footage of the incident has been received by the Victoria police.

"The ordeal went on for 45 minutes and no one came to my rescue except one old lady who was kind enough to get up and asked those boys to stop it," Rajan said.

The victim was thankful to the white lady, who tried to help him but was asked to keep her mouth shut.

Rajan is returning home next month due to some health issues, which he claimed had occurred soon after the incident.

Meanwhile, president of Federation of Indian Association of Victoria Vasan Srinivasan, who is closely following Rajan's case, said the victim was not able to move his right hand and had been feeling weak.

"Rajan has developed some neck and hand movement problems. We have requested his college to defer his course by a year and have booked his flight back on August 11," Vasan said, adding he can return to finish his course at a later stage.

Indian students, especially in Victoria, have reported more than 100 cases of assaults since June last year, prompting serious concerns over their safety and the issue of racism in the country.

According to a recently released study by Monash University's Centre for Population and Urban Research, there was a strong link between the government's international education, skilled migration and labour policies -- which lead to Indian students becoming prone to racism.

The study has criticised the Australian government for its failure to safeguard overseas pupils, who have been caught up in a nexus of education and migration.

"The policy linking education and migration was aimed at getting 'designer migrants' to satisfy Australia's needs for a younger professional labour force at little cost," it said.

It said the link between education and permanent residency attracted unprecedented numbers of fee-paying students with poor English knowledge from rural India, particularly into vocational education.

Over 4 lakh Indians now live in Australia, with students comprising nearly one-third of that community.

The research said a lack of "student-centredness in the educational/migration/skilled labour policy" meant inadequate regulation of educational standards, growth of unscrupulous agents and poor safety and security left students vulnerable.

"Another reason for the policy failure was that policy was focussed solely on educational income and labour outcomes rather than the motivations of the students and potential migrants," it said.

The analysis by academics Supriya Singh and Anuja Cabraal is based on 41 interviews with first and second-generation Indian migrants and religious and community leaders.

They said that unlike previous professional Indians who came from large cities and migrated with their families from the 1970s onwards, recent Indian migrants are largely students who are often financially stressed.

The family investment in education as a pathway to migration is based on expectations of future prosperity for the student migrant and for his or her family, they said.

"In the small towns and villages of Punjab (from where many students migrate), the excitement was not about the excellence of Australia's education, but the brick houses that have been built with the money sent home by migrants," they said.

The researchers also directly connected poor government policy with racial attacks on Indian students.

"They have also been poorly served by the government's policy linking education, skilled labour and migration. These factors are contributing to Indian students becoming vulnerable to racism, particularly in the streets of Melbourne," they said.
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