The attacks on students of South Asian students in Australia which seem to have a definite pattern and a mind behind them must be condemned in no uncertain terms. Young men and women today travel across the seven seas desperately trying to build up credentials and training that would secure them jobs, security and a future that would guarantee them the basic needs that make human life possible. That these should be targets of `race’ or any other kind of hate is reprehensible.
It has been opined that one of the possible reasons for this supposedly random targeting is the fact that Asians are seen as those taking away jobs from Australian settlers of European descent. The Prime Minister of Australia Mr. Kevin Rudd has tried to downplay the events by alluding to the fact that in the last decade several tens of Australian citizens have been killed in homicidal acts in India while travelling or touring India. Others have written that south Asian students are possibly more vulnerable to attacks as they typically live in poorer neighbourhoods and travel at odd hours after work or studies to get back home, while it must be noted that one of the most egregious events took place in a bar where students were simply enjoying a harmless evening out, leading to grievous injury to atleast one student. Irrespective of what the events actually signify or what their gravity is, the subject has become a mainstream media event.
The possibly systematic targeting of south Asian students comes at a time when the world is gripped by an unprecedented economic crisis which has enveloped every corner of the globe. Concomitantly, there is a broad debate in society about the nature of the economic arrangements and their intrinsic unfairness, the looting of society by a handful of oligarchs, and the beginnings of debate on the role of the state and its obligations to its citizenry. World over there is broad disillusionment with the capitalist system, with the devastation it has spread, with the anarchy and chaos that is its fellow-traveller. There is broad condemnation of the wars of imperialist conquest led by the Anglo-American bloc, of which Australia was an enthusiastic partner. The Government of Mr. John Howard which was defeated in the recent general elections stood discredited in the eyes of the public in Australia as an outright toady of the notorious Bush administration, which carried on its activities in face of massive protests. Mr. Howard’s administration stopped at nothing to bolster its activities and used xenophobia and race hate as a weapon (the case of Dr. Mohammed Haneef being a recent glaring example). However, the people of Australia have repeatedly demonstrated their reprehension and disgust at such activities and attitudes, as evidenced by repeated large scale street demonstrations, rallies, signature campaigns and the like. Given this scenario, even in the most recent events of attacks against students, the actions of Mr. Rudd and his administration fall woefully short of outright condemnation of the attacks. There is no promise or guarantee of bringing the perpetrators of the attacks to justice or to guarantee the prevention of such acts in the future. It is almost as if the door has been left open to encourage or abet such acts in the future, as and when deemed necessary.
This latter course is no surprise as the foundations of the state such as the one in Australia is a Eurocentric model with origins in colonial-settler times. The history of Australia is replete with examples of attacks on and decimation of its aboriginal peoples, outright discrimination against those whose origin was not in the British Isles, or continental Europe. It has been one of the last countries to eliminate racist immigration policies. The state structures themselves exist to merely protect the rights of private property as in most countries of such origins or in their mother countries in Europe. It is well known that when contradictions between the masses and the ruling elites rise to high levels, race hate is whipped up by corporate and other media, as though it is the working peoples who are the sources of the problems. Such attacks and hate mongering against vulnerable sections have been the order of the day for a long time in England, Canada and elsewhere. In those cases, there is much to suggest that there was the involvement of well known political figures, clandestine funding from intelligence and state agencies. Even today in Australia, the United Australia Party led by Ms. Pauline Hanson which has as its backbone anti-immigration policies, is very much in the mainstream. To this extent racism is alive and well in Australia.
Rather than tackling the issues that face the peoples of the world, including those of Australia, the present disposition has proved to be a useful conduit to channel the discontent and to disorient the debate. It remains to be seen whether the thugs and goons responsible for the attacks are brought to justice or not. All justice loving people must strive to see this end met. There should be nothing short of outright condemnation of the attacks on students of South Asian origin.