Monday, June 29, 2009
'Old' Indians in Australia say youngsters invite attacks
'Old' Indians in Australia say youngsters invite attacks 29 Jun 2009, 1953 hrs IST, Roli Srivastava, TNN Print Email Discuss Share Save Comment Text: MELBOURNE\SYDNEY: Conspicuously missing from the entire issue of Indian students being attacked in Australia is the Indian immigrant community that has distanced itself from the young community of Indians, particularly those who are ``well settled'' and consider the whole brouhaha surrounding the attacks on students as ``unnecessary''.. The immigrant Indian community in this continent country is resenting this attention on them ``for all the wrong reasons''. They say they had lived peacefully in this nation for years together but the sharp rise in the student population followed by the problems of attacks on them has made the community suddenly uncomfortable with its Indian identity. For this reason, the Indian immigrant community here has remained invisible even as students spoke against the government rather vociferously demanding that the government should protect them better. This visible divide between the new and old Indians in Australia is much like a generation gap that cannot be bridged with the younger bunch of students saying that the older Indians here were ``subservient'' to the system but since the new generation grew in a free, democratic India, they do not think twice before challenging the system. The older generation of Indians points out that the student community has first world expectations from this country (referring to their statements on police apathy and government inaction to these attacks) but fail to behave in accordance with how citizens of a first world country live. They find them loud and flashy and thus conspicuous and targets for such attacks. Young students say that the attacks cannot be condoned with such explanations and find it intriguing why their Indian elders here are not finding faults with the assailants but with them. In fact, the few locals here who are sympathetic to the cause point out that even bodies such as United India Association, an umbrella organisation of 24 Indian bodies representing various linguistic and regional identities, failed to react. ``Community leaders did not react. The federal and the state government have moved far more swiftly than the Indian community,'' says Immanuel Selvaraj, a student leader about ten years ago and currently member of the Indian consulate general's committee investigating student concerns in Sydney. Laurie Ferguson, parliamentary secretary for multicultural affairs too observed that the old and new Indian community had no connect. The observations are bang on. Indians settled in Melbourne and Sydney largely scoff at the issue saying that the student community and the media were over reacting. However, in Sydney, one saw some sympathetic voices seeking better protection of students studying here and working late hours. Indians here feel that Indians are victims to street crimes and using the word racism has proved counterproductive. Local Indian community members here rue Amitabh Bachchan declining the honorary doctorate being conferred on him by an Australian university, in reaction to ``racist'' attacks. ``I cannot figure out the difference between a Sri Lankan and a South Indian. How can an assailant figure that out,'' questions Aparna Krishna, who moved to Melbourne three years ago and lives here with her two children. But the resentment for this student agitation is most possibly rooted in the ``embarrassment’’ the old Indians feel on account of the students' behaviour. Rakesh, a local businessman in Sydney scoffed, ``Illiterate Indians,'' while another elderly Indian said, ``The way they behave in trains is deplorable. They listen to loud music and talk loudly on the phone.’’ Some also grudge the easy route to Permanent Residency that these students have discovered. ``When we came here to work, it was after we earned our degrees from premier institutes such as IITs and RECs. We worked as bank managers, professors, doctors, IT professionals. So the Indian community was known for being skilled professionals. Now our children are sweeping floors, cleaning utensils and working at petrol bunks,’’ says a manager with a private firm, ruing that how the whole Indian identity is undergoing a rapid change that the community at large is not comfortable with. A 20-year-old university student who was born to Indian parents in Australia says that she could easily integrate into the society. ``We as Indian Australians have had no problems so far. We have never been looked down upon,’’ she says with a thick Australian accent, something she says she acquired naturally since she has been living in this country all her life. Now, after the reports of attacks on Indian students hit headlines, she says that when she walks on the streets or enters the university, she feels a distinct difference in the way people around her react to her presence. ``The attitude is different now. They stay away from you. They are no longer as welcoming. They are first trying to establish your identity,’’ she says. The attacks have also created a fear psychosis which the Indian community is finding difficult to deal with. They say that the series of attacks and the reporting that followed has after a point become counterproductive with copy-cat crimes surfacing and even minor incidents of brawls being branded as racist attacks. An Indian local who has lived here for 15 years, says, that she felt at ease driving around and doing her work. ``Now when I step out of the car, I first look around. I never felt like that before,’’ she says. Curiously, Indian immigrants here admit being denied promotions or jobs which they believe is due to their Indian identity in the past. But they say they always looked at the bigger picture (of getting a good quality of life) and chose to accept things as they were. ``I can't be the front face of the company with my dark skin and thick Indian accent,'' says an Indian settled here for the last 18 years, and holding the same post for the last seven years. But he says he chooses to ignore these facts. That the young Indian students are wearing their `Indianness' on their sleeves could well be a sore point with many and they espouse the ``When in Rome... '' philosophy. However, interactions with local Australians reveal they still believe ``Indians don’t cause trouble’’. A senior cameraperson with a local television station narrates how he got a call from office when he was covering the protest rally of Indian students when 6000 of them had hit the streets. ``They asked me if I needed security. I said if there were 300 Australian students around me I would have needed securitybut with Indian students around, there was no fear. They cause no trouble,’’ he said.