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Indian Consul General warns students to stay -

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Indian Consul General warns students to stay safe

The World Today - Tuesday, 9 June , 2009 12:10:00

Reporter: Jennifer Macey

PETER CAVE: The Indian Consul General in Sydney is meeting with students this morning to discuss
safety procedures after more assaults occurred in Western Sydney last night.

More than 200 people spontaneously protested in Parramatta after two Indian students were attacked
in separate incidents last night.

Three men who appeared to be Middle Eastern were bashed in a suspected retaliation.

The police are investigating last night's incidents but insist that the initial attacks were not
racially motivated, merely opportunistic.

Jennifer Macey reports.

JENNIFER MACEY: The meeting about safety for international students at the University of Technology
in Sydney had been organised days ago - but it was timely.

Overnight hundreds of people from the Indian community in Western Sydney protested after another
two students were attacked.

The Indian Consul General Amit Dasgupta warned students not to isolate themselves from the rest of
the community.

AMIT DASGUPTA: Students tend to live - even mentally - in enclaves. If you keep living in India
even when you're living in Canada or Australia or whatever it is, it really doesn't help. I think
it's important that students themselves make the effort to get out from where they've come.

JENNIFER MACEY: Some of the students say they are worried about travelling home from uni or work
late at night. Others say they don't think the police are doing enough to protect them.

VOX POP: A couple of times I have been spoken with the police regarding a couple of assaults which
personally happened to me and in one case I really got enough support but in the other case, I
didn't receive as support as I was expecting.

JENNIFER MACEY: Two Indian students were assaulted just before nine o'clock in separate incidents
in Harris Park near Parramatta.

The men had minor injuries and didn't press charges but it triggered a protest in which more than
200 people blockaded a busy intersection.

Later that night, three men of three men of Middle Eastern appearance were bashed in what is
thought to be a retaliation attack.

The Superintendent of the Parramatta Local Command Robert Redfern says the crowd didn't disperse
until 3:00am.

He says he doesn't think that race played a factor in the attacks.

ROBERT REDFERN: There is no suggestion, as I say, that these incidents last night were racially
motivated. Certainly it would appear to us that they are opportunistic and this is an area of
Harris Park where there is a very large Indian community.

JENNIFER MACEY: However a spokesman for the NSW Lebanese Community Council Elie Nassif says there's
been tension in the area between the Lebanese and Indian communities.

He says it's time these issues are addressed.

ELIE NASSIF: Unfortunately it is but we would work to wipe it out. We should work together - the
community leaders to work with the police together with the Government to do our best to try to,
you know, put them on the right track.

JENNIFER MACEY: Indian community leaders acknowledge there is tension between the communities but
they say it's a law and order issue.

Aruna Chandrala is the president of the United Indian Association. She says she is worried about
reprisals.

ARUNA CHANDRALA: This is what we were actually afraid of like you know some kind of copycat kind of
incidents will take place between the two groups of people and that is exactly what is happening.

JENNIFER MACEY: There are about 100,000 Indian students in Australia. Most of the recent attacks
have occurred in Melbourne.

Indian groups have been standing guards at railway stations in Melbourne's west to protect students
after another student was bashed unconscious on his way home from St Albans Station on the weekend.

The Federal Government has set up a taskforce, headed by the national security adviser Duncan
Lewis, to try to address the issue of violence against Indian students.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education Julia Gillard says she's concerned about any
form of violence.

JULIA GILLARD: But to the extent that we see any international student are hurt or at risk, we
obviously want to make a difference. We've been working with Victoria, with our state colleagues
trying to make that difference. Obviously Victoria has responded very rapidly and well to these
circumstances and we will be working with the international student community and with the Indian
Government to make sure that international students get the right information about living in this
country.

JENNIFER MACEY: The New South Wales Police are downplaying the incidents as racially motivated and
they're defending themselves against accusations that they're not doing enough to protect Indian
students. The New South Wales Deputy Commissioner is Dave Owens.

DAVE OWENS: We're doing a lot. First of all can I say that any assaults upon any members of the
community won't be tolerated. We also do rail safe because these students, a lot of them are
travelling late at night. We have done that for a number of years. What we've undertaken to do is
review how we do that, how we get the message out; is it a stale message? How can we revitalise
that message?

We need people who are victims of crime to come forward and report them to the police. We will take
every assault seriously and we will investigate every assault and it is only through this reporting
to us that we get a very clear and very accurate picture of when and where these assaults are
occurring.

PETER CAVE: Dave Owens, the New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner, ending that report from
Jennifer Macey.