Melbourne: Shaken by a wave of racial assaults, thousands of Indian students chanting patriotic slogans on Sunday rallied in Melboure demanding justice for victims of recent attacks as Australia scrambled to contain the rising anger and frustration within the community.
The peace rally organized by bodies like Federation of Indian Students in Australia (Fisa) and National Union of Students kicked off from outside the Royal Melbourne Hospital, where 25-year-old Shravan Kumar is in a critical condition after being stabbed with a screwdriver by a group of teens on Sunday last.
Kumar, who had slipped into coma after being stabbed, was “out of danger”, but still critical, said a leading community member who visited him at the hospital.
“He (Kumar) has come out of coma and moved his hands,” said T.J. Rao, also a former Consul General of India in Melbourne who too participated in the rally. “Kumar is out of life support, but doctors are still not very sure about his full recovery,” Rao said.
The marchers numbering over 5,000 walked down to the Victorian Parliament House on Spring street, holding placards.
Fisa founder Gautam Gupta, who led the rally, said, “We believe in Gandhigiri”, and peaceful ways to present the demands of the student community.
The students had hoped to hand over their demands’ list to the lawmakers, but it could not be materialized.
Their demands included a multicultural police force for Victoria, which houses 47,000 of the 95,000 Indian student community in Australia. They also demanded that crime statistics be made public and sought racial tolerance and awareness, and advertising campaign to welcome international students, highlighting their contribution to the Australian economy.
Facing flak over the spate of racial assaults, Australia said it was doing everything it can to prevent further attacks on the community.
“We’re doing everything that we can, both with the Indian community in Australia and India itself ... but also working very closely with the relevant state authorities,” Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith was quoted as saying by AAP.
He assured the community that the Australian authorities are trying to bring the attackers to justice and ensure a safe environment for all international students.