State and Federal politicians are finding it difficult to ignore the continuing attacks against Indian students because of the impact they have had on international student visas, university enrolments and crucially their fees.
They have attempted to project an image of Australia as harmonious and multicultural, declaring the attacks to be opportunistic but not racist, while the government is regretful but not responsible.
But Indian students are refusing to let the Victorian or the federal governments deny the racism that is at the heart of the attacks.
An Australian delegation of police and education officials spent a week in India trying to convince the international student market of the safety and quality of an Australian study experience.
But their whitewashing of the recent racist violence had to compete with the concerns already expressed in the Indian media. A senior editor at India’s Hindustan Times newspaper said the delegation got “about two or three inches of press coverage”. While here, a hacker plastered a message for the Australian government on the RAAF website: “Immediately take all measures to stop racist attacks against Indian students in Australia…”
Another part of the Victorian government’s effort to smooth over the problem of racism and avoid responsibility for the attacks on Indian students was the Melbourne Harmony Day march. It could have been a solid anti-racist response. John Brumby encouraged the community to attend the march, to assist in “getting that message out that we are a safe, tolerant and multicultural state”.
But the government response was more about spin. It punctured the harmony of its own Harmony Day and delivered a slap in the face for Indian students when it refused a request from the Federation of Indian Students to address the march. In response, the Federation boycotted the event.
Gautam Gupta from the Federation of Indian Students said, “We think the Government is now basically using it [Harmony Day] as a political media stunt… Unfortunately they are trying to dilute the main issue, and we don’t want to be part of any dilution.”
Meanwhile another two Indian students were bashed in the week following the march.
By Lucy Honan

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