Rudd says violence against Indians unacceptable, so are reprisal attacks

Kevin RuddAustralian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd today spoke out against so-called "reprisal attacks" and "vigilante action" against those who had targeted Indian students in the country in recent weeks even as he said that the attacks against Indian students were unacceptable.

"I think what we need to see is a bit of balance in this debate. It’s unacceptable for anyone to commit an act of violence against any student of any ethnicity anywhere in Australia. Chinese, Indian, Callithumpian, Queenslanders, anybody," Mr Rudd said in an interview with Neil Mitchel on Radio 3AW.

"Any act of violence. And the truth is, in our cities right across the country, not just Melbourne there are acts of violence every day, that’s just a regrettable part of urban life. That’s one thing. But it’s equally unacceptable for so called ‘reprisal attacks’ and for so called ‘vigilante’ action as well. It’s equally unacceptable for there to be retribution attacks and for there to be vigilante action," he said.

Mr Rudd's remarks came two days after reports of a retaliatory attack in which a man was stabbed after he called out to a group of Indians and asked them to leave the country.

There were also reports that Indian students had taken to patrolling some of the areas where attacks had taken place.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said in New Delhi yesterday that Indian students should show restraint and concentrate on their studies instead of going in for retaliatory action.

Speaking in the Indian Parliament yesterday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had expressed concern about the attacks on Indian students in Australia. "I have been appalled by the senseless violence and crime, some of it racially motivated against our students in Australia. I propose to engage the authorities in Australia in a high level dialogue with a view to taking stock of the situation and to providing adequate security for Indian students," he said.

Dr Singh said he had already spoken to Mr Rudd on this subject and the latter had assured him that any racist attacks on Indian students would be strongly dealt with.

"I think everyone needs just to draw some breath on this and I think we need to see a greater atmosphere of general calm. Australia, I’m advised is one of the safest countries in the world for international students, one of the safest countries in the world for international students

He said violence in cities was a fact of life around the world. He pointed out that there were as many as 20 Australians who had been victims of assault in India during the past decade. "Now, that’s not the result of Australians being targeted in India, it’s just a fact of violence in cities around the world. As you know, as you’re walking down the streets of Paris or London there’s always a risk that something’s going to happen. So I do think we need some balance in this debate," he said.

Mr Rudd said he fully supported hardline measures against those responsible for the attacks on students, whether Indians or of any other nationality. "And furthermore, we also need to render it completely unacceptable people taking the law into their own hands and believing that retribution attacks or so called vigilante action is the right way to go. As I said, all cities from time to time are going to have acts of violence. Let’s put this into perspective. And Australia I’m advised on the statistics is one of the safest countries in the world for international students," he said.

"It’s unacceptable for any acts of violence to be committed against Indian students. It’s unacceptable for any student group to believe they can take the law into their own hands and engage in so called retribution attacks or vigilante action, as I said. We need some balance in this and you know what the balancing statistic is, this is one of the safest countries in the world for international students. Let’s put all of this into perspective. And let’s also put it into perspective in terms of politicians elsewhere perhaps seeking to inflame this debate as well," he said.

Mr Rudd also took a few calls from Indians who rang up the radio station during the interview. He told one of them, identified as Mickey, that law abiding citizens from any part of the world were welcome in Australia.

"We pride ourselves on that. We have an open door. And for the more than 200,000 Australians of Indian origin, they are fantastic first class citizens of Australia. I’ve known them for decades and decades in my own community in Queensland. I’ve known them right across Australia. Secondly, for the 70,000 or 80,000 Indian students in this country, they are equally welcome. If any act of violence is committed against any student in your community, your first and immediate action has to be to get straight on to the police," he said.

The remark came in the context of reports from Sydney that the police were sometimes not getting direct and immediate reports about some incidents.

"Any act, any threatening act any physical act of violence should be reported immediately. If there is any concern about lack of follow up, immediately then contact your local member of parliament and demand an answer, okay. So first and foremost go to the right channels, which is the police, who I think in difficult circumstances are doing a good job. Secondly, if you believe that no action has occurred within an immediately reasonable period of time, straight on to your local member of parliament," he said.

Mr Rudd told the interviewer that the great defining character of Australia was its inherent tolerance. "It’s inherent culture of allowing other people to be themselves. Remember with each new wave of immigrants in this country there’s been debates and concerns and they’ve all faded and they’ve all been resolved," he said.

According to him, Australia was enormously richer for all the arrivals over the decades from different parts of the world, including Indians.

"Look at the contribution of the Indian business community to Australia. So my sense is, right across this vast country of ours we celebrate the diversity and I think occasionally you’re going to have a flare up through a bit of misunderstanding. But let’ just stand back and put it into historical context. This is an enormously tolerant society and I am proud of it," he said.


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