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Indian student attacks: Time for action

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COMMENTS

18 February 2010 10:17

One of the strangest lines to have been uttered regarding the attacks on Indian students is this one from Victorian Police Commissioner Simon Overland:

'... If you look at the data they are safer here than they are in India'.

What is bizarre about it is how he thought this kind of stat would help address the concerns of Indians.

Just think of the same scenario involving Australians. If there appeared to be a pattern of attacks specifically targeting Australians in some ultra-safe Scandinavian country, would inflamed national opinion be ameliorated with the comforting news we are still safer studying in Scandinavia than Melbourne? Would images of the second, third, or fourth twenty-something Australian student stabbed or in a coffin be passively accepted as just bad luck? Would we be grateful that our compatriots are still statistically safer in Stockholm? I suspect not.

What the Police Commissioner seems to have overlooked is that perception matters, deeply.

There has been a great deal of inconsistency from all sides on this issue and that has resulted in heavy damage to Australia's image in India. As Rory and I argue in today's Australian, until there is an open and transparent assessment of the available data by an independent committee, that includes a representative of the Indian Government, doubts about Australian racial tolerance and perceptions of a cover-up will continue to linger on both sides.

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