Students demand protection
Sydney - Young Indians studying in Sydney were on Thursday urged to end their nightly rallies demanding police protection after a string of muggings and assaults that Australian authorities deny are racially motivated.
"The rallies have served their purpose," Indian community leader Yadhu Singh said. "They are disrupting the general life of the people in the suburbs where the rallies are being held."
On three consecutive nights in the Sydney suburb of Harris Park groups of young Indians have demanded a police crackdown on violent attacks they say are perpetrated by ethnic Lebanese.
The rallies, which have seen arrests and angry confrontations between Indians and Lebanese, have prompted police to boost patrols at railways stations where many of the attacks have taken place. On Wednesday night, police were obliged to keep apart rival groups of Indians and Lebanese.
Yadhu, a cardiologist appointed to lead the Indian consul general's taskforce to look into claims of hate crimes, denied that communal tension was the backdrop to the assaults.
"I don't think it's really between communities," he said. "I don't think it's the Indian community and the Lebanese community."
Superintendent Robert Redfern, the local police chief, reiterated the official view that Indians were disproportionately the victims of crime because they were more likely than others to be travelling late at night on public transport.
"The victims of crime that do occur in this area are not exclusively Indian; the perpetrators of those crimes are not exclusively Middle Eastern," Redfern said.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd urged the 90 000 Indians studying in Australia to eschew revenge attacks that could further inflame racial tension.
"The truth is, in our cities right across the country there are acts of violence every day," he said. "That's just a regrettable fact of urban life."