India condemned the fatal stabbing of an Indian student in Melbourne and warned that the attack, which was the latest in a series of assaults, could put bilateral ties under strain.
Nitin Garg, 21, was stabbed as he walked to his part time job at Hungry Jack’s in West Footscray on Saturday night. He died later in hospital.
“This heinous crime on humanity, this is an uncivilised brutal attack on innocent Indians,” Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna told reporters late Sunday in the southern city of Bangalore.
“It certainly will have some bearing on the bilateral ties between our two countries,” Krishna said, urging Australia to “speedily” catch those responsible.
Indian media express shock at attack
The assaults have attracted widespread media condemnation in India, and triggered street protests by Indians in Sydney and Melbourne.
The Times of India has posted a video – called ‘Australian govt mum on Indian’s murder,’ which said that Mr Garg, an accounting graduate, was the “first casualty in a series of attacks on Indians in Australia that began in June last year”.
“Nitin Garg, who had a permanent residency, was stabbed in the abdomen by unidentified attackers and left bleeding on the roadside,” the report said.
The Indian Express also reported the attack, saying that the Australian government condemned the stabbing.
Concerns for Indian students’ safety
The president of the Federation of Indian Students, Gaitam Gupta said the safety of Indian students in Australia has not improved in recent months.
He said Nitin Garg had been attacked four previous times, questioning the police statement that there’s no evidence of racism involved in the fatal attack on him.
“How do we know it is not a gang that is targeting Indians? They came out and says there’s no evidence of racism. What are they basing it on? What were they expecting, to find evidence of racism? Are they expecting that someone is going to drop their business card and say, ‘I have stabbed and I am a racist’?”
Mr Gupta called on cricketing legends Shane Warne and Ricky Ponting to speak out against violence against Indian students.
“Shane Warne is an icon in India – he has millions of fans,” he said.
Don’t jump to conclusions: Hulls
Acting Victorian Premier Rob Hulls said the murder is abhorrent but people should not jump to conclusions about it being a racial attack.
Mr Hulls said he had not been advised on whether the stabbing was a hate crime.
“The tragic death of a young Indian lad is, I repeat, abhorrent, it is a heinous crime and it is something that the police are putting all resources into investigating and finding the culprit,” he told reporters.
“I don’t think anyone should jump to conclusions at this stage.
“I think it’s important that police be allowed to get on with the job of investigating this heinous crime.”
Mr Hulls said Victoria remained one of the safest places in the world, with crime rates falling dramatically in the past few years.
The government had introduced new legislation requiring judges to consider hate crime in sentencing violent offenders and police had extra powers to conduct random weapons searches, he said.
“We will continue to do what we can as a government to reduce crime, to make Victoria a safe place to live, a safe place to have holidays, a safe place to visit,” Mr Hulls said.
Too early ‘to speculate’
Ealier, Victoria Police’s Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe denied claims that Melbourne was a hotbed for racist attacks against Indian students.
“I don’t believe that there has been any really detailed racist motives around assaults on Indian people in the past.
In some cases there may well be, but in the general sense of it, a lot of (of attacks) has been around opportunistic theft, or opportunistic robbery,” he said.
Australia’s education sector affected
An interim report on Australia’s international education sector released last month found its global reputation had been damaged by news of the attacks and later revelations of migration scams.
Australia’s lucrative higher education industry is worth 17.2 billion dollars (15.4 billion US) a year and is officially listed as the country’s fourth largest export earner.
About 115,000 Indians have studied in Australia in the last 12 months after a university publicity blitz targeting the country’s growing middle class.
Australia condemns Indian man’s death
Trade Minister Simon Crean told the ABC he’s worried the attack will strain relations between the two countries.
“We are always concerned that the impact that these attacks have, and this fatality is just dreadful.
“We condemn it in the strongest possible terms. We’re working closely with the Victorian police authorities to identify particular trouble-spots, and the investigation into this will leave no stone unturned in trying to find the perpetrators, Mr Swan said.
Police to test stop and search powers
This Thursday will see Victoria Police test their new stop-and-search powers for the first time, the ABC reports.
Police can now metal detectors to find concealed weapons and search anyone in a designated area.
“The new search powers only came into being on the 16th December,” says Deputy Commissioner Kieren Walshe.
He says that the officers involved have undertaken training to ensure that they understand their obligations under not only new legislation and the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilites.
The law requires notice of designated areas to be published a week in advance in the local paper and Government Gazette.