Under instructions from the Indian Government, the Indian Consulate in Sydney has formed a committee to address the concerns about the welfare of Indian students in Australia, said Dr Singh, who heads the committee.”Melbourne has a bigger problem but if we don’t do something in Sydney it will be repeated here,” said Dr Singh, a cardiologist.
He said he was aware of numerous robbings and random bashings on Indian students at night and in daylight, on trains and near their homes, often in western Sydney.
He also referred to an incident on Sunday evening, in which hospitality graduate Rajesh Kumar received burns to 30 per cent of his body after a petrol bomb was thrown through the window of the Harris Park home he shared with other Indians.
Dr Singh said the attacks had been happening for about four years, and were a mixture of opportunistic robberies and outright racist attacks.
“There’s a name for [the racist attacks]: ‘curry bashing’ … [as in] ‘lets go curry bashing’,” he said.
“They are not random at all, the people are targeting them. They know these students are easy targets.”
Two 18-year-olds faced a Victorian court late last year after a man was killed in such an attack. The court heard seven friends had met at a Footscray McDonald’s store on January 22 and decided to go out “curry bashing”, which meant assaulting and robbing an Indian.
In the robbery cases, Indian students often became victims because they traveled home late at night, alone, after working to support their studies, Dr Singh said.
Thieves also knew they were unlikely to report incidents to police, he said.
“They are not reporting to police because their experience of police in India is pathetic – they are corrupt, pathetic, not helpful.”
Many students were also afraid that lodging any sort of formal police report would harm their chances at permanent residency.
“So they will suffer the humiliation and the insult … and the criminals think: ‘We are pretty safe robbing them and nothing will happen’.”
Dr Singh did not give much credence to the idea, reported on some Indian websites, that the students were attacked out of jealousy at their academic ability.
“These criminals are not competitors of Indian students. They are no-hopers who have nothing else to do but robbing and committing crimes.”
Dr Singh called for a more intensive undercover police effort to capture offenders. He said there also needed to be more education for Indian students on “street smarts”.
“They don’t walk with the confidence we do. You have to merge with the general persona of Australian confidence, you should have a spring of confidence in your step.”
Reports of attacks on Indians received wide coverage in Indian press, including on popular satellite news programs such as NDTV, Dr Singh said.
Unless authorities acted to reduce attacks, the multi-billion dollar education industry was at stake, he said.
“It’s making a big impression in India. When I went to India in December people [who were considering studying in Australia] asked me: ‘We are not sure … what’s going on there, are you safe? They were asking about me!”‘.
UNSW international students officer Sakshi Sehgal said there were increased concerns about the safety of international students from all countries, not just India.
Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard this week announced there would be a “roundtable” in which international students could voice their complaints.
“I am aware of and am concerned about the reports in the media of international students safety being compromised and of their having unsatisfactory experiences while in Australia,” Ms Gillard said. A recent violent attack on an Indian student occurred in her electorate of Lalor.
Charges were this week were also laid against six youths, aged 12 to 16, involved in what police said were unprovoked attacks on foreign students at Newcastle University.