Whipping up panic over Australian racism

BY Rajni Luthra| IN Media Practice | 02/06/2009
Have you experienced any form of racism? No, I haven’t, I’m going to scream at the next TV channel that rings me.
RAJNI LUTHRA says the media frenzy is doing Indians in Australia more harm than good. IANS

Most Indian homes in Australia have had this phone call from concerned family in India by now. "Are you alright? What are they doing to you guys over there?"


It¿s almost as if Australian gangs are roaming the trains seeking out Indians to bash up, or roaming the streets seeking out Indian homes to throw petrol bombs into. "Stay safe," the relatives are saying over the phone from across hundreds of miles. "Don¿t go out alone at night; don¿t take ¿pangas¿ with others on the trains …"


The Indian TV channels have put out so much material on the Australian situation that they are actually making Australia out to be an unsafe place to live in, at least for Indians. The constant churning out on the TV screens on "updates on the Australian situation" is responsible for this paranoia.


In my own home in Sydney, we have had repeated phone calls from media outlets in India, waking us up at odd hours of the night, asking for more info about "the situation".


Have you experienced any racist behaviour at the hands of the Aussies, they ask. Have you experienced any form of racism? No, I haven¿t, I¿m going to scream at the next TV channel that rings me.


"Would you like to go live in Australia now that you¿ve heard of the racism there?" Even a major newspaper website asked a question that sounded something like this on their daily poll.


Parents of Indian students are being interviewed about calling their kids back; students who have finished their degrees and gone back to India are being interviewed, and education consultants are selling Canada - and everyone is jumping on the "racism" bandwagon.


I think it is time for the voice of reason to speak out. True, we are all concerned about the recent attacks against some Indian students here, and we are all shocked and horrified at the incidents reported, but it¿s not as if the Australian public have declared jihad on Indians here!


Can someone please stop this frenzy? Mediawallahs, cool it, please!


Yes there is a "situation" here with the students. Yes, there has been slow reaction by the authorities in the past. And yes, the work that you did in highlighting it has injected that much-needed sense of urgency, so kudos to you for that.


But now, let them get on with their task, and stop adding fuel to the fire. Most of us here are as safe as citizens of any other race, and have not experienced racism any more than we probably had in India.


Remember Graham Staines? That was the work of a misguided group of fundamentalists - just like some of the attacks on the Indian students here. Were all Hindus - all Indians - branded ¿racist¿ because of that one-off Orissa incident involving the Australian missionary who was killed along with his sons?


The need of the hour is to concentrate on the student issue - help those directly affected, and put mechanisms in place for future students - not to play the race card. There never was a strong enough one in the first place.




Rajni A. Luthra is the editor of Indian Link, Sydney. She can be contacted at ilink1@optusnet.com.au )


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