Anatomy of hate as magazine unleashes anti-Australian rage – or does it?

Indian_magazine-200x0 Yes, I was pissed off when I saw Anatomy of hate as magazine unleashes anti-Australian rage leading today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

The 10-page coverage includes stories of young Indian victims of violence and racial abuse and describes how Indian students in Melbourne feel afraid on the streets.

Van Thanh Rudd, an anti-racism activist and Kevin Rudd’s nephew – recently criticised for wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit to protest against attacks on Indians – told Outlook the "dominant culture in Australia” was racist, and that he had no doubt the attacks had been racially motivated.

The magazine quotes far-right politicians and says it has found ”evidence that ‘curry-bashing’ is becoming a fun game for white Australians". Outlook, a centre-left weekly, is one of India’s top-selling English-language magazines with a circulation of 1.5 million and a big online following…

The editor-in-chief of Outlook, Vinod Mehta, defended the coverage and denied allegations that the Indian media were overreacting. He told the Herald: "We sent two correspondents to Australia and they found that an overwhelming number of these incidents were racial and they found that Indians in Australia live in fear. There is tremendous outrage in this country. I don’t think the Australians realise that."

Mr Mehta said one reason for the anger was the "smug and superior attitude of the Australian government for denying there was racism and then telling the Indians not to hype this up"…

The story includes comments by right-wing groups in Australia. Outlook quotes Jim Saleam, the head of the anti-immigration party Australia First, that Indians are ”becoming a serious threat to white Australians in the job market". Bob Vinnicombe of One Nation is quoted as saying Australia ”should actively encourage bringing in Christians and white people from Zimbabwe and South Africa".

But the magazine does not report that three people charged with the murder of Ranjodh Singh were Indian nationals.

Reports about attacks on Indians have damaged Australia’s $15 billion a year international education industry.

still13 My initial reaction, especially to things like Outlook quotes Jim Saleam, the head of the anti-immigration party Australia First, that Indians are ”becoming a serious threat to white Australians in the job market" is to note that quoting him as any kind of authority is to give that nutter far more significance than anyone in Australia does. It’s a bit like canvassing the type of person we saw represented in the movie Parzania (pic on left) for a sensible view on Islam. (Good movie, that.)

A second reaction is a cautionary one for us Australian anti-racists – and there are many of us – to be careful whether what we do or say inflames the situation rather than helps heal it. After all, were that to happen our degree of self-righteousness about not being rednecks will have come at an unintended cost.

My third reaction is to contemplate the nature of media representation, and that led me to contemplate the nature of the Herald’s representation of Outlook! So I did, and find the Herald wanting.

aus_inaida_map_20100208

Graphic from Outlook

If Outlook “does not report that three people charged with the murder of Ranjodh Singh were Indian nationals” then equally the Herald does not report that the same issue of Outlook includes ‘Some, Not All, Assaults Have Been Racial’ – an interview with Victorian Premier Brumby, and a contextualising piece Together In Fear & Trembling:

In the poorer quarters of Melbourne where Indians live, they passionately discuss the causes of their plight. They talk about how they are sitting ducks for the expressions of rage variously described as racial or criminal attacks. Some blame the media for hyping the attacks on Indians, blowing them up out of context. Others say it’s simply bad luck. You sometimes get caught in the “wrong place at the wrong time”. But there’s unanimity on one count: “curry-bashing” is fast becoming the young Australian’s favourite pastime. Some of the assailants are of African origin, either from Ethiopia or Sudan. A few are from Southeast Asia or the Middle East. Many,  though, are white kids.

Foots Cray and Sunshine are among the poorer suburbs of Melbourne, just 20 minutes by taxi from the city’s central business district. Traditionally, these are the areas where immigrants on arrival have always stayed. As they prosper, they move out to better neighbourhoods. Today, among the new arrivals in these quarters, the Indians, largely students, are the most visible. These two suburbs have their advantages—the accommodation is among the cheapest in the city and is close to Victoria University or the other colleges where Indian students are enrolled in courses such as cookery and hospitality.

The Herald also neglects the conclusion of the lead article:

This group of rich Indians partially blames the attacks on their brethren who have arrived recently in droves, belong to small towns, and are completely oblivious to the cultural sensibilities of Australians. They blast their Bhangra music on trains, talk loudly while travelling in public transport and make lewd comments and gestures at young Australian girls. Says Gagandeep Singh, who manages a petrol pump in one of the Melbourne suburbs, “Some months back, while travelling on a train with my parents who were visiting me from Punjab, I felt so ashamed because you could clearly hear the choicest Punjabi abuses from a group of Indian boys who were also in the compartment.” An Indian lady says a young Australian girl once confided in her that she prefers to stand in train coaches than to sit next to Indian boys. Otherwise, she said she’d spend the entire travel time warding off their advances.

The controversy over racism also stems from ignorance about each other’s culture and history. “Most Indian students perhaps know about the geography of Australia, but have very little knowledge about its history,” says Heather Goodall, a professor of history at the University of Technology, Sydney. She says most Indians only know that Australia followed a ‘white-only’ immigration policy for much of its history, forgetting its strong left-liberal tradition and its fight against racism. Agrees Benjamin Cass, who has worked with Indian students planning to come to Australia to study, “There are perhaps only two things they know about Australia: one, that it has kangaroos and two, that the people here play cricket.”

“Travelling on a train sometime back, I was ashamed, as you could hear the choicest Punjabi abuses,” says Gagandeep Singh.

Indeed, the attacks on Indians have prompted many Australians to call for urgent introspection and acknowledgement that racism is still a serious problem in the country. Says documentary filmmaker John Bolston, “When you’ve been told by your political leaders that you are the best, then it is difficult to accept yourself as racist. Perhaps, it is time that the government takes the initiative for us to wash our dirty linen in public.” The debate on racism is expected to gather momentum as Victoria and Australia inch closer to elections by this yearend.

Others also want Indians to remember that what they are witnessing, though reprehensible, are typically the birth pangs every immigrant group has experienced when their numbers have grown substantially in Australia. It happened with the Chinese, Afghans, Jews, Greeks, Lebanese and Vietnamese. It’s now the turn of Indians, who must unite and establish linkages with liberal Australians to protect themselves—and their interests.

Conclusion: the Herald report is more noxious than the articles it is “reporting”.

There is another element here of course, best seen in this correspondence in The Times of India on Britain’s recent rejection of many Indian student visas.

Sharad C. Misra,Mumbai,says:There is nothing so attractive about UK now that students from North India would make a beeline to emigrate to that country for education and knowledge-based carriers. Possibly, alarmed by the racist onslaught against Indian students in Australia, a former British colony, UK too is trying to pay safe. In fact, it should not be the concern of the destination country to bother about which part of the originating country the visa- seekers come from, whether it is from Delhi or Chandigarh or Jalandhar. They are all Indians. Indeed, there may be agents in such places who help useless, unemployed people to gain entry into UK for ulterior purposes having nothing to do with education but such cases have always been there. But how about people from Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other fundamentalist Islamic countries ? UK dare not talk about these agents of terrorism and targets a soft country like India, its own former colony. . There could also be a possibility that like America UK too has resorted to adopting the policy of shutting out Indians in its job market hit hard by the ongoing recession in the interest of its own nationals. Ministry of External Affairs would do well to investigate the matter and know the reasons for this ban on visa-seekers from North India.
[31 Jan, 2010 0458hrs IST]
ravi patel,brisbane, australia ,says:this is exactly what is happening in Australia too. thousands of indian students from north india coming here on the basis of studying cookery and then working 50 hrs with out attending a single day at college/ universities.
[31 Jan, 2010 0451hrs IST]
Kaliyug,USA,says:There is nothing that is not available in duplicate in Punjab, the people seem to do anything to get out of Punjab. Most of the Punjabis seldom use their last names, in fact they call themselves "Singh"
[31 Jan, 2010 0404hrs IST]
padman,Bengaluru,says:hahaha.. most of people want to escape from country India. it is not about quality education they get oversea but the poor living standard in India. Look our cities, pollution, overcrowded, bad traffic, no electricity, worst infrastructure, corruption, 100 of problem. Some of them you can fix in 2-3 years time. But our governments at state and central are too slow to react. Government of India has to wake up and work hard to make India best place to live than only people will stay in India or NRI who hate India so much for every reasons (read most of comments by them) will consider to come back. Yeah most of them are selfish people, who put themselves first before country.
[31 Jan, 2010 0358hrs IST]
Gurmit Singh,Australia,says:If Australia, Canada, New Zealand, USA and UK are really short of cheap
[31 Jan, 2010 0353hrs IST]
Kumar,Sydney,says:These kind of fake students have flooded Australia in the last 3-5 years and they are the ones causing all the trouble in Australia.
[31 Jan, 2010 0342hrs IST]
Raj,London,says:Well this has been long overdue from UK’s point of view! one only has to see the sort of people on student visas to realise that something is wrong! As not many can communicate in the language, which they are supposed to be studying in! They are economic migrants under disguise of students and possibly overstayers too! so sad! why?
[31 Jan, 2010 0239hrs IST]

My position remains: of course some of the attacks have been racist, but Australians are no more (or less) racist than anyone else on this planet.

Outlook is a pretty good magazine.

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5 thoughts on “Anatomy of hate as magazine unleashes anti-Australian rage – or does it?

  1. Pingback: Anatomy of hate as magazine unleashes anti-Australian rage – or … | Indian Today

  2. Neil, for it is worth, my take on the situation. The students who go over to Australia or any other country for that matter, are the kind that cannot get into even our third tier institutions. They have no job opportunities in their home towns or villages, have got pathetic education which is just managing to pass the high school examinations, come from households with some affluence and which ask these kids to start contributing to the joint kitty, which is abhorrent and the way to escape all that is to use the route of study overseas and try to stay on. They land up in places with different cultures and attitudes, find it difficult to assimilate and invite trouble on themselves by behaviour that may be acceptable in the hinterland from which they come in India, but not in Australia. For that matter, we have such boors in Pune which is a major education center in India and here too they get criticized by locals for misbehaving. These kids will not do the same work in India that they are willing to do in say Melbourne because they think that it is beneath their dignity with the third class education that they have got.

    Quite whether there is racism or not in Australia is something that I do not wish to comment on. I have personally seen or experienced none during my two trips to Australia. I see a lot of racism in India though!

    I thought that the Outlook issue was in poor taste. It may have sold more copies than normal, but for regular readers like me, it was below par.

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