Sunday, May 31, 2009

'Curry bashing' in Oz

Making big news in India, and amongst Indian communities around the world, are reports of racist attacks on Indian students in Australia.

A protest march was just held in Melbourne, reported variously as having either 300 or 1,000 or 5,000 participants depending which report you read.

It was organised by the Federation of Indian Students in conjunction with Melbourne University's Graduate Student Association. That's an indication of the majority opinion in Oz, people of different ethnic backgrounds living side by side.

But there will always be racist elements and sadly they're coming out of the woodwork all over the world.

Recent governments have a lot to answer for, those of BushW and the last Australian PM John Howard in particular. They created a climate of fear and loathing, of foreigners wanting 'to destroy our way of life', which they promoted to keep themselves in power and to push through their extreme policies.

Howard and his cronies had a huge and disgraceful campaign to drum up hatred against asylum seekers, or 'illegal immigrants' as they called them. Lies were regularly told, photographs were doctored, the hysteria mounted.

They were in power for over a decade which was plenty of time to well and truly create the atmosphere. We're seeing the effects now amongst the teenagers who grew up in that climate and who are carrying out these attacks.

There seems to be an increase on attacks on Indian students, although a number of them are undoubtedly not racially motivated but are standard street crimes.

Community leader Dr Yadu Singh said the attacks had been happening for about four years and were a mixture of opportunistic robberies and outright racist attacks.

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.

He has another interesting theory too, that thieves knew the incidents were unlikely to be reported to police:

"They are not reporting to police because their experience of police in India is pathetic - they are corrupt, pathetic, not helpful."

There does seem to be a copycat element to the racially motivated attacks though, with the phrase 'curry bashing' becoming more widespread. The phrase spreads amongst college students, the morons amongst them seize on it and think they'll go out for what their pea-sized brains think is fun.

"What we gonna do tonight? Study? 'ave a beer? Find some girls?"

"Nah, let's have some real fun, we'll go curry bashing."

That means they are specifically targeting Indians, or more accurately people from the sub-continent because they wouldn't be able to distinguish amongst them.

The fallout is growing, Australian government ministers are involved, the PM has spoken with Manmohan Singh, actions are obviously being taken.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told TV news:

"We're doing everything that we can, both with the Indian community in Australia and India itself ... but also working very closely with the relevant state authorities."

Mr Smith said Australia was trying to bring the attackers to justice and ensure a safe environment for all international students.

But now adding fuel to the flames the Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan has gone public with his decision to reject an honorary doctorate from an Australian University, which he'd earlier accepted.

The temperature's rising and I expect to soon see photographs of effigies being burnt in the streets of Indian cities.

Every society has this problem from a moronic minority I'm afraid. Racism, bigotry, discrimination are part of human society around the world. It isn't only, contrary to often stated opinion, a white on non-white issue, it involves people of all colours on people of all colours, religion on religion, class on class, caste on caste, tribe on tribe.

Fortunately Australia is nowhere as bad as many, in spite of the huge reaction in India to these current attacks.

Reading the Times of India I was, as I often am, fascinated by the comments left by readers to these stories. They give a real insight into the range of human thinking. Ignorance of the facts not limiting adamant statements, what I call the arrogance of ignorance. The extreme views of some balanced by the reasonable views of others, the calls for revenge.

Kirpa Raj who lives in the USA is in the 'arrogance of ignorance' file:

Crime is in the genes of Australians who are actually descendants of convicts from England. "Hate crime" is a very soft term. They committed genocide of Ab Origine population, which is a crime against humanity. It is futile to expect any civilized behavior from Australians. India, China, Indonesia, Japan and other civilized Asian countries should occupy/liberate Australia, and put these convicts back in prisons where they actually belong.

I'm sure he wouldn't believe the fact that the vast majority of the 21 million Aussies have no convict ancestors.

He has a fellow travellor in New Zealand too, who's also a conspiracy theorist:

Melchides Rodrigues wants us to know that:

Racism is widely prevelant in Australia and New Zealand. A white (whose ancestors were from Britain) is more likely to be racist toward immigrant Asians than an other persons. Apparently their mental attitude that they are superior than Asians, and their imperialistic (colonial) nature is still widely rampant. They cannot accept the fact that Asians an other non British people , are doing better educationally and job prospect wise.This fact is being covered up by the Australian High Commissioner in New Delhi(John McCarthy), to protect his own fellow Anglo Saxon breathern.

Both happy in their racist, bigoted world, exactly like the morons they're complaining about.

And talking about racists complaining about racism, how about the words of wisdom from Kiran,Kumar:

Out of 95000 Indian students only 500 are real student and rest of them are Punjabis who are here to do anything to earn $$$$$$ and create nuisance wherever they can with best of their abilities. Their so called leaders are all ex taxi drivers who had no life...

Onkarnath,USA has a similar problem:

Why so much crying? Are we safe in India? Can North Indian go to Mumbai and feel safe?

And Jack in Mumbai obviously agrees:

At least now Indians are fighting together. I feel the attack was shameful, But the MOST SHAMEFUL ACT is the one that happened in Austria, Indians Attacking Indians. That's the reason i Feel Australian attack was nothing before it. We Indians are already so discriminative that racism is nothing. India is full of racism and discrimination right the religion, caste, creed, state and language.

JJ has another take on it and wonders why the fuss over these attacks:

When thousand of were Tamilians killed in Sri lanka no body in India made a cry. Why now this cry in the north?

They kind of demonstrate that racism, bigotry and discrimination are alive and well don't they.

There's another side to the view of Australia though. Here's an ABI - Australian Born Indian - who lives in Canberra. Eric Jusula says:

As a first generation Australian who is planning to spend some time visiting India this year I'm very disturbed by what is happening and the media reports in Australia and in India. In my view Australia is one of the least racist countries that I have lived, or traveled, within. Racism exits in all societies to varying degrees. So does violence and crime, and adolescent stupidity. The individuals responsible for the cowardly attacks against Indian students need to be seen for what they are. They are extremely rare, pathetic dregs of society, who will be dealt with as criminals, and disgraces to Australian values.

Australia's first Asian-born cabinet minster agrees with Eric. Penny Wong told TV news that racism in Australia is confined to a minority of people with extreme views, saying that "On the whole I think Australians are tolerant."

Former Indian consul general Mr TJ Rao went even further and said the recent attacks on Indian students had nothing to do with racism.

"This has nothing to do with racism, Australians are not racist people," Mr Rao said. "I have been in this country for 41 years and have never had any trouble.

Well that's an overly rosy opinion because some are, same as the world over, but thankfully they're a tiny minority.

I think the comment form another USA based Indian is a good place to finish.

Ajay Sharma, from Dayton, Ohio makes a lot of sense to me:

Marching peace rallies will not stop evil doers from committing such brutal attacks. The root cause is somewhere else. Irrespective of the country, as long as our planet is divided by man-made borders of states, religion, cast and creed; such heinous incidences will keep on happening. We humans proclaim ourselves as wisest species but we repeatedly behave in a way that is worst than wildest creatures ever wondered on earth!

There's plenty of coverage in newspapers in the UAE, India and Australia and here are some links to various bits of the story I've mentioned in the post. If you're interested in the story they're worth reading.

Melbourne Herald Sun report on the rally.

Foreign Minister's comments in Sydney Morning Herald.

Dr Yadu Singh interview in Sydney Morning Herald.

Minister Penny Wong's interview in The Australian.

Here's where you'll find the fascinating and illuminating comments, sent in to The Times of India main story.

Big B's rejection of doctorate.


Prog Power said...

"Every society has this problem from a moronic minority I'm afraid. Racism, bigotry, discrimination are part of human society around the world"- SB

Well said, and on the money. Racism and discriminatory hatred is a result of misguidance and/or insecurity of the bitter from all over the world, and some douchebags feel a false sense of empowerment to endorse a "skin head" agenda. The only real solution is global awareness, education, and MORE cross-cultural interaction.

While I welcome a strong and positive support from the victims' fellow countrymen and media, the sensationalist attitude of the media is going to make this worse and flame the fire more.

Particularly, the Indian media's coverage seems to suggest (as days go by now) that the Oz govt. and institutions need to ensure VIP treatment for Indians living there to make this right.

Kicking up row in place of encouraging enhanced cultural bonding is not proving to be progressive. In such climate, haters are only going to be egged on further to take to the streets with more vigor.

Anonymous said...

As you pointed out most of these are outright crimes and have little to do with racism. As an Indian I am myself embarrassed at the hue and cry being made about a racist slant to the recent crimes.

These are isolated incidents and I do not think we can paint the entire Australian nation in a racist color. The Indian is making it sound like the Aussie govt itself has a hand in the conspiracy.

But then this serves the Indian media well.

a question of a question said...

my personal experience of being in Australia was a rather mixed one.

not that i hv spent much time there ( four weeks in two visits), but one of the most memorable incidents from my visit to WA was a street performance (bhangra music) by group of indian students in fremantle on sunday afternoon / evening. I m not talking about their performance it was the response of the audience to their performance which amazed me.

out of the crowd of 500 - 600 odd people who gathered there to watch them perform, more than 80% would be white australians and boy did they enjoy that performance with beers in their hand and watching it from the street, from the balconies and they danced to their beats like there was no tomorrow.

it shows that the society is not racist. . . people there enjoy other culture and accept it.

on the other hand i did had a few bad experiences too . . . but they were more a reflection of those individuals and not of the society.

N52 said...

I think you'll find that Australia is unfortunately one of the more racist countries. It's no secret that one of the main reasons a lot of Europeans immigrate to Oz nowadays is to live in what they perceive to be a very white country.

Unfortunate, but true.

Seabee said...

N52, you state that Oz is one of the more racist countries and go on to state that this is Unfortunate, but true.I'm interested to have the link to the factual information you obviously have access to which allows you to make these statements. You state quite adamantly that this is "true" so you must have proof.

You will presumably be surprised to know that about a third of all immigrants are non-white, by the way.

Anonymous said...

two thirds of immigrants are whites as you say iself probably says something loud and clear. how many other countries can claim that two thirds of their immigrants are whites? not many i guess.

Anonymous said...

unfortunate for all parties concerned, but no need to go to the extent of being apologetic and grovelling as anon @ May 31, 2009 8:59 PM

i guess the way to see if it is indeed racial( ok, i will use cultural, since everyone claims to be non racial) is to compare with the nature of attacks, and the intent of the attack, and also look at attacks on other communities in same locality.

1. I dont think there is much to doubt about nature of attack. attacks were vindictive, aiming to harm and disfigure, but not necessarily to kill.

2. Intent of attack was clearly to intimidate, have fun at their expense, there seems to be very little case of personal rivalry, it is mostly attacks on people who represent a culture, and were seen as someone worthy of being treated less than others. bashing up people at party, throwing fire bombs, stabbing someone while he is trying to hand over his purse etc does not exactly sound like robbery. it did sound like there are other reasons.are these reasons cultural, because they are different? they live in a different way? they look different? dress different? taking their opportunities?

3. Are these attacks happening with same regularity on other communities, in same way, in same ratio proportionate to indian community strength. No, that clearly does not seem to be the case.

Now are all aussies doing this? definitely NO. are all indians being targeted? at this point, it is does look like there were some 200 cases in certain number of months as quoted somewhere, so there does look like a anti indian cultural action. now does this make all australians racists? definitely no. does it make some australians racists? no, just anti cultural, i guess. were ku klux klan racists? some say no. is it time yet for some pommie whacking, like the lebanese did? not sure. at least they seem to have earned their space to live in australia and screw up things.

N52 said...

Seabee, yes I am not denying that there are a lot of non-white immigrants, I am saying (one of) the reason(s) why a lot of white immigrants move to Australia is because the previous govt has created a very "if you're white you're alright" mentality in the nation.
I think Oz is about 40 years behind when it comes to race relations. Maybe all it is is that Australia is more overt with its racism, whereas say Britain is much more covert and is veiled under all the politeness.

Seabee said...

Anon@1.58, you seem to see something sinister in the figure I gave.

About a quarter of the total population was born overseas. That's about 5 million people.

Of those, nearly 1.7 million, about a third, are from the UK and New Zealand, of which the vast majority happen to be white.

That they should be the largest groups is perfectly natural when you consider the historic links between the UK and Australia, the proximity of NZ and the fact that New Zealanders can immigrate automatically.

The third highest group was born in China, with 280,000 people.

Seabee said...


Are there racists in Australia? Of course, every country has them. But Oz is about 40 years behind when it comes to race relations? You're theorising on other people's perceptions and basing your statements on that.

It's officially and legally a multi-cultural society with some of the world's strongest race laws.

Overt as opposed to the UK's covert? Your perceptions are off the mark there too. The UK media, politicians and talking heads may veil it in politeness but it's completely in the open on the streets, people don't bother to hide it.

Anonymous said...


Mukul has reasons to be scared. He witnessed the horror up close. ``My friend was working part-time as a salesman. One evening while he was returning from the shop, he was stopped by three persons at the railway station. They asked him for money and when he resisted, beat him up and hurled racial abuses. My friend got so scared that he quit his job,'' Mukul says.

Indian students in Australia though say incidents of assault and mugging are commonplace but ``not entirely racial''. Ruchir Punjabi, president of University of Sydney Students' Union, said on phone from Sydney: ``I have been personally attacked several times I would not say they were all racial. We have come here to live our dreams and paid a lot for it. This will not make us pack our bags and leave.''

Barely eight months after landing Down Under, Modi got a shock of his life: a group of six Australian students thrashed him in a train. The 'curry bashing', as it is known there, left him so scared that he packed up within a week to return to Surat. Recent pictures of Indian students brutally beaten up have brought back memories of his bitter experience in Melbourne. ''I was going home from the university in the train when a group of six youngsters came up to me and asked for cigarettes. When I told them that I did not smoke, they started hurling racial abuses at me. Suddenly, they started beating me. The punched me in my face and kicked me while people around did nothing,'' he said.
He discontinued his three-year degree course after just one semester at Holmesglen Institute of TAFE. He lost close to Rs 2 lakh paid as fees.Since then, he thought it best to focus on the family business. ''Attacks on Indian students are common there. They would not harass other Asian students but target Indians only,'' Suketu said. He recalled the case of Nikunj Patel of Vadodara, a taxi driver in Melbourne. ''Often, Australians would not pay him the fare. Once, he was shown a knife when he insisted on payment''. He said Nikunj could not return home as his parents had taken a hefty loan to send him to Australia. Premal Umap, a Sydney-based security professional who belongs to Vadodara, said such racial attacks were common. ''Most students avoid registering a complaint and suffer quietly,'' he said.

“Amid racial attacks on Indian students in Australia, cricketer Harbhajan Singh's cousin on driver has killed his son in Melbourne and thrown the body on a railway track. Harbhajan's cousin Jagjit Singh claimed that his 26-year-old son Upkar Singh Babbal, who went to Australia in 2004 to pursue a course in hospitality management, was killed in a racist attack in Melbourne on May 7.Singh said as per the statements of Babbal's friends in Australia, he was killed by an Australian taxi driver who threw his body on the railway track in Melbourne.He also demanded a probe by the Indian government into the death of his son, saying Babbal had informed him a number of times about the alleged discrimination against Indian students in Australia.”

Amina said...

Interesting post!

I'm from Dubai but studying at the University of Melbourne atm so I had the opportunity to witness the protest march recently, and as far as I remember the numbers were more like 500 than 5000...but who's counting?

Idealistically speaking, the best course of action now would be for Australia to implement strong, secure crime prevention measures to assure the safety of not just interntaional students but every potential target of color - if all these attacks were indeed racially motivated. In fact, Vic Police should do the Aussies proud and obliterate this problem with such ferocity that people all over Australia will stop and think twice before they so much as call a bowl of curry a "curry"...! But who are we kidding right? I'm more afraid of my grandmother than Vic Police.

Everyone seems so interested in picking at the nature of the problem and arguing about its implications but anyone who wasn't born yesterday knows that racism permeates every nook and cranny of the world and for anyone to suddenly put him/herself on the toleration high horse and condemn the general population of Australians is utterly absurd. I've been in this country for 3 long years as my non-White non-Christian albeit non-Indian self and I can tell you that the only remotely racist sentiment I've ever received occured once, and oddly enough it was perpetrated by an Indian.

True, Australia may be home to some overt racists but then again the sun rises from the east and George W Bush is out of the White House so why are we even competing over how racist one nation is relative to another? It's ridiculous how easy it is to engage in racial and political backlash without ever solving the problem. I mean even reading the kind of comments this blog post attracts, there seems to be a uselessly high number of accusations vs subsequent defence.

And did anyone stop to consider that maybe the increased likelihood of finding Indian students in predictable, vulnerable situations played a factor in compromising their security? I mean if I decided to raid every single 7/11 in the city at some ungodly hour in the a.m., I bet I would have harmed a truckload of Indians, not a single Caucasian and possibly a few Asians in the process. That just speaks for itself. As much as it's important to discipline these violent racist youths and stamp out the problem as passionately as if it were Australian students being harmed by Indians (we'll see how quickly the Australian government reacts THEN!), the only person who's really got your back at the end of the day is yourself. And you don't have to be Indian or Australian to relate to that!

Seabee said...

Amina, thanks for your excellent contribution to the debate.

Anonymous said...


Indian students relive horror stories in Australia
2 Jun 2009, 1233 hrs IST, Meenakshi Sinha , TNN, NEW DELHI:

It was well past midnight when Kanan Kharbanda decided to accompany his friend to the Sunshine station in a western suburb of Melbourne. His pal was expecting his wife on the last local. "Around 15-20 Australians approached us outside the taxi stand asking for a dollar. When I showed them my empty pockets, they started beating up my friend and me," says the 27-year-old third semester accounting student of Melbourne Institute of Technology as he relived on phone the horrific incident.

A couple of them wore knuckle punchers. And while his friend escaped with a minor muscle pull, Kanan suffered a fractured nose and a broken orbital bone. He has lost vision in his right eye. "I'm disabled for life now. My confidence has hit an all-time low," says Kanan of the March 2008 incident.

Kanan, who hails from Amritsar, is just one of the many Indians assaulted in Australia over the past few years. Now that the vicious attacks on Indian students have hit world headlines, several are speaking out and the horror stories are piling up. Students also complain of facing verbal abuse; many of them overtly racist such as "you bloody overseas," "you ***king curry" and "you ***king Indian."

Kanan says that the police did not offer any help like arranging ambulance or offering first aid. "They kept asking questions like what did they do to you and who are they. When we asked for medical help, they simply said, 'take a taxi. We know what our job is, you bloody overseas'," he recalls.

Joy Shah, 23, came from Ahmedabad to study hotel management in Holmes College, Melbourne. He says that the police demand proof of assault or abuse in order to take action. "How can we give proof of abuse?" says Shah

Seabee said...


There are racists in Australia, there are racially motivated attacks on Indian (and other) students - who said otherwise and where's the spin?

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

i think australia has undeniable racist past with genocide of aborigines people and thats a fact. The tv shows neighbours and home and away dont even have one non white cast member. My mother in law is an australian and i definately detect a racist attitude from her and i am half indian, even though she visits india she is more into the patronising colonialist mentality. i Think its a sad but true fact that australia is racist and remember the arab bashing of a few years back also>/?

Seabee said...

Anon@7.04, of course Australia has a racist past, that was all part of the colonial system.

But you're accusing an entire country of 21 million people of being racist: "its a sad but true fact that australia is racist and remember the arab bashing of a few years back also>/?"

And what are you basing that on? The attitude of one person, some TV soaps and a misunderstanding of something that happened a couple of years ago.

The TV soaps you name don't have one non-white cast member? That's because they accurately reflect the type of suburbs they depict. The vast majority of such suburbs in reality have no non-white residents.

In any case, I'd hate Oz to have the patronising American quota system for TV programmes.

Your mother in law is, you say, racist. That may well be true, but she's not typical. I know literally hundreds of Australians and only one couple are in any way racist, which they deny of course. They're retired, were born in Britain and have a carry-over of the colonial mindset from their youth.

The Arab bashing? You misunderstand what happened. It was no more 'Arab bashing' than earlier incidents were 'White bashing', when surf lifeguards were attacked.

You're talking about what were known as the Cronulla riots and it was actually the result of ongoing tension and posturing between young men of Lebanese background and young whites.

Of course Australia has racist elements, as I keep saying. Tell me a country that doesn't. But that doesn't make the entire population racist as you claim.

Ram's Blog said...

Hi, I like the way, in this 'thread' (i don't know the word, i guess this article in your blog) you see through and point out the fallacies that people use in their arguments, it's refreshing.

I agree that it's just the sensationalising of these incidents that is the cause of the current spat of "curry" bashings and I also agree that at least in the current instance its not about racism, just kids acting out their angst and boredomness by doing something the media has hyped up. I guess we have to remember that yes they are doing something heinous, hurting someone for no reason and that obviously not right, however I just want to add that i think that people generally around the 15-24 range generally have to do something tht seems to some to get the same 'kicks' that older people get playing a game of golf or buying a lottery ticket or some sport.

If anything, if you're up against a mob I think the best thing to do is identify, or try to identify people individually. Point them out. It makes them feel less anonymous in a group, less affected by the "group mind". If you have a mirror or theres glass get 'em to look at themselves, it's surprisingly usefull though in a group cofnrontation at a railway station, thats obviously a bit touc, especially cos most blokes dont carry mirrors with them, haha.

The biggest problem in my opinion is the overflowing anti-australian sentiment from other countries and the inevitable hordes of people jumping on the bandwagon to have an opinion when they don't need to have one; many a time as you pointed out these opinions are based on 'he said she said' nonesense like "I heard _____ once went to australia and they called him _________.. How racist are they? Bloody racist aussies, did you see the cricket when______". And on and on it goes. *sigh* It's the problem with most people isn't it.....everyone has to have an opinion on everything, the arrogance of ignorance....its an epidemic far more harmful than te swine flu.

But I feel like i'm expresing something the general population knows so repeating it seems likes a pointless exercise in expressing my opinion. My 5 cents worth. What do you think about finding news that isnt all about over-sensationalised stories like this, or cats stuck in trees, which inevitably prevail at the end of news shows as feel good endings or Chk Chk boom girl? And do you find it slightly demeaning that news readers talk to one another in that 4 seconds segment before a change to sporst or weather or something to make them seem more relatable to us, more human and the fact that news shows feel the need to make them do that, its always a joke too. I just feel its sad that they must think that we'll fall for that....or maybe im just slightly paranoid and they are actually talking to one another and manage to inevitable throw in a one-liner or two every time in the segway to different news.

Anonymous said...

I presume that all's now well with the world and the Arab world will leave Israel alone to live in peace.

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Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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Chris said...

"I also agree that at least in the current instance its not about racism, just kids acting out their angst and boredomness by doing something the media has hyped up."

Ram, if a gang of people set upon you for no good reason, beat you bloody and left you blind in one eye, would you shrug it off as 'just a bit of boredom'?