RACE ATTACKS SINGE HOT SPOT.
THERE'S fear and loathing on the streets of Melbourne. Ironically, the city, which has over 140 nationalities and speaks in 151 different tongues, was ranked by the Economist Intelligent Unit as the third most livable city in the world, behind Vancouver and Vienna. It's a tag Melbourne steadfastly refuses to shed even as it implodes with spiralling violence on the streets.
On Saturday night, the violence claimed the life of Nitin Garg, a 21- year- old from Punjab. This has cast a pall of fear over the Indian student community in Melbourne.
An accountancy graduate of Central Queensland University, Garg had recently realised every immigrant's dream of getting a permanent residency and a job.
His dream was soured even before he met his violent end on his way to Hungry Jack's -- the staple of many Indian students looking at making a quick buck from a part- time job.
Garg had been beaten and threatened at knife- point at a train station last year. So scarred was he by the experience that he regularly wrote against racist hate groups on Facebook . And he was not alone among Indian students going public with their fears.
With Garg's murder, Melbourne may lose its much tomtommed multi- culti tag. As many as 100 Indians, mostly students, were attacked in Australia ( mainly in Melbourne) last year. Several Indian students in the city, who earlier maintained the attacks were " opportunistic" not racist, now admit they don't feel safe in Melbourne.
Divya Sharma, a Ph. D. candidate at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, had planned a youth workshop in Footscray -- which has seen a spate of attacks on Indian students -- on January 26. But now, she can't find any Indian to attend the workshop. " Fear has seeped into the psyche of Indian students and they refuse to go to Footscray," she said.
Ironically, Sharma had organised a Diwali celebration titled Sab Kuch Theekh Thaak Hai on her university campus to drive home the point that Melbourne was safe. " Till late last year, many of us believed the attacks were freak incidents. But now, the recurrence of these attacks is creating anxiety," she added.
Abhishek Awasthi, president of the Indian Students' Club at La Trobe University, agreed with her. " Fear factor has come into play among Indian students.
Nobody wants to be out alone at night," he said. " And by that, I don't mean 12 midnight or 1 am, but 8 pm," he added.
Clearly, the Cinderalla hour for Indian students has been advanced. Awasthi said that's because they don't have confidence in the system to bring the criminals to book.
The police are yet to inspire confidence despite the city's Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, announcing last year that Melbourne had doubled the number of security cameras in its Central Business District, which is notorious for attacks on weekend nights. An additional 120 police officers were deployed on the streets at a cost of Rs 188 crore. Just days before Saturday's attack, the police were given search and seizure powers in Footscray, which adjoins the area where Garg lost his life. L OCAL political leadership, however, refuses to see the obvious.
The problem is that of street violence and not violence against Indians, insists Marsha Thomson, Footscray MP. " The stabbing of Nitin Garg was horrific, but we can't assume it was a racial attack," she said. " It is going to take more than the police and the government to tackle the inexplicable urge of young people to carry knives on the streets," Thomson added.
Gautam Gupta, spokesperson for the Federation of Indian Students ( FISA), said most Indian students fear going to the local police after being racially abused.
" Though the police claim 1,447 people of Indian origin had been attacked in Melbourne last year, the actual number is at least three to four times higher," Gupta said.
Racism must be investigated as the possible cause of Garg's death, he insisted, because the victim's belongings were untouched. " If one out of 100 residents of Victoria is a victim of crime, the ratio among Indians is four out of 100. A few weeks ago, an Indian was stabbed for just 20 cents," he added.
Garg's murder has also exposed the Australian leadership in the eyes of Indian students. Gupta dubbed the high- profile visits of the Australian PM Kevin Rudd to India as a " marketing gimmick". It's a view that's shared by the Indian community.
Siddharth Suresh, Melbournebased editor of Indus Age , a South Asian community newspaper, said the government had paid mere lip service to Indian students. " No one is saying there are white rednecks roaming the streets looking for Indians.
But attacks against the community need to be taken seriously," he said.
MELBOURNE IS HOTBED OF CRIME
These are some of the trouble spots made notorious by repeated attacks on Indians GLENROY AUSTRALIA MELBOURNE Romsey Philip Island
Glenroy: Shravan Kumar, a 25- year- old student from Hyderabad, slipped into coma after being attacked by a group of teens here last May
Sunshine : Has seen repeated attacks on Indians
Footscray: This is a poorer part of Melbourne, populated by a sizeable Indian community, particularly students. Has seen a spate of racial attacks
Brunswick: Has seen sporadic incidents of attacks on Indians
St Albans: A 23- yearold Indian student was beaten up here last June after getting off a late- night train
Yarraville: This part of Melbourne also has seen violent incidents off and on
Epping: A mob attacked two Indians here at a pub last month
Ivanhoe: An Indian female student was stabbed here
Central Business District: This area is notorious for attacks outside pubs on Friday and Saturday nights
THE CITY'S SOCIAL PROFILE
Hinduism is Melbourne's fastest growing religion.
Data picked up from a 2006 census reveal that Hinduism had 41,000 followers in the city, and had grown by 157 per cent in a decade
One in four ( 23 per cent) residents of Victoria -- Melbourne is the capital city -- was born outside Australia. Of this group, 72 per cent were born in countries where English is not the first language.
Nearly 35 per cent of Melbourne residents were born overseas
Melbourne's residents represent 140 nationalities and speak 151 languages
The city has the highest population of Tamil speakers in the world, next to India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia
Melbourne is home to the largest Greek population outside Greece
Melbourne's Chinatown is the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the western world. It has been around since the Australian Gold Rush of the 1850s
The number of student visa holders from India in Australia has burgeoned from 8,122 in 2003 to 91,887 in 2009. An overwhelming majority of them study in Melbourne
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