Australia PM warns race vigilantes

Rudd says racial violence and reprisal attacks "equally unacceptable".

    Kevin Rudd has called for calm amid increasing anger among Australia's Indian student population [EPA]

    The attacks have caused outrage in India and strained diplomatic ties between Canberra and New Delhi.

    "I think everyone just needs to draw some breath on this and I think we need to see a greater atmosphere of general calm," Rudd said.

    Call for patience

    SM Krisha, India's foreign minister, made a similar plea.

    "I would like our Indian students to be patient ... restrained. They have gone there to pursue higher studies, they should concentrate on that," he told reporters in New Delhi.

    Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister who described the attacks in a speech to parliament as "racially motivated", said Rudd had assured him that any racist attacks on Indian students would be "strongly dealt with".

    Singh also tried to calm the mood at home, calling on media to be objective and cautious in reporting the attacks.

    "I wish to request the media to be mindful of the fact that there are over 200,000 Australian citizens of Indian origin," he said in parliament.

    "We should be mindful of their interests, and avoid willy-nilly creating a situation where these citizens of Australia of Indian origin become the targets of racist intolerance."

    The comments come after about 70 students took to the streets of western Sydney for a second night on Tuesday to protest against the spate of recent attacks.

    'Vigilante attack'

    Many Indian students in Australia say they are the target of racially-motivated attacks [AFP]
    Police said a protest involving hundreds of Indian students on Monday night turned into a "vigilante" attack, with a group wielding sticks and baseball bats attacking men of "Middle Eastern appearance" in apparent retaliation for an earlier alleged assault on an Indian student.

    Police arrested two men during the Sydney protest on Tuesday, charging one with carrying a metal pole as a weapon and releasing the other without charge.

    In Melbourne, police say they will disband groups of Indian men who have been offering protection to students at crime-prone suburban railway stations.

    Police also promised to beef up security at the stations.

    "The message is to reassure the Victorian community that we understand that there is a significant issue here, that we take it seriously," Commissioner Simon Overland, the police chief of Victoria state said on Wednesday.

    Police have said much of the crime is opportunistic, with Indian students sometimes falling victim because they travel alone late at night to part-time jobs or from universities carrying valuables such as laptop computers.

    But Overland admitted that "some of the attacks were clearly racist in motivation", adding that "violence is unacceptable and racism is unacceptable in any form".

    Police in Sydney have also deployed more officers to the worst-affected suburbs.

    There are some 90,000 Indian students in Australia, where foreign students are the country's third biggest export earner, bringing in $12bn annually.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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