I don’t think Indian media should vilify the African community: Tim Singh

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Indian community leaders say police need to step up safety measures in the wake of gang attack on Indian student Manrajwinder Singh in Melbourne.

An Indian community leader has criticised Australia’s ethnic press for “vilifying” the African community in the wake of the horrific gang attack on Indian student Manrajwinder Singh in Melbourne.

“I do not think local Indian media should engage in vilifying the African community in headlines,” Darebin Councillor Tim Singh Laurence said.

“Targeting in headlines undermines intercultural relations in Victoria and by focusing on ethnicity fails to focus on root cause of the crime wave on our streets — that is fueled by alcohol, unemployment, and a growing cowardly culture of violence.Sadly, three factors are being experienced by all ethnic communities,” he said.

Singh was attacked, robbed and beaten unconscious while making his way home from Crown Casino on 29 December.The 20-year-old accounting student remained in a coma for days and now faces months of rehabilitation.

Police have charged three members of a gang called KYR – an acronym for Kill Your Rivals – who were reported to be of African appearance.

Laurence said the way local media reported the alleged racial element in the attack ran the risk of inflaming community tensions.

“This does nothing to build the bond between African and Indian communities.”

Laurence said when police media focused on suspects of “Indian appearance” in previous cases, the Indian community “rightly protested”.

“In particular the peak national Sikh organisation wrote to Vic Police and pointed out breach of guidelines regarding racial and religious identification of alleged offenders,” he said.

Meanwhile, Victoria Police has spoken out to allay community fears, saying the majority of crimes are not racially motivated.

“Not all crimes are racially motivated. But we recognise a small minority are crimes that have a racial element attached to it,” Victoria Police said in a written statement to the Indian Sun.

“But our experience is that most of the crimes involving international students are opportunistic crimes –like for instance, items stolen or assaults.”

“We believe we have made significant inroads recently through engaging more closely with the community, to better understand their concerns and help people avoid becoming victims of crime.”

Victoria Police cannot comment specifically on the case as it is before the courts.

The incident comes after a spate of attacks on Indian students in Melbourne in 2009 and 2010 that triggered protests that were widely reported on the sub-continent, and contributed to a 70 percent drop in the number of Indian students traveling to Victoria.

The Indian government issued a travel warning for students coming here and the country was written off as racist in the eyes of many.

A Victoria Police spokesperson said state police ran an initiative to cut crime against international students in the wake of the 2010 protests.

“Along with the high growth in international students studying in Victoria, there had been an increase in the number of students who had become victims of crime,” they said in a statement.

“A number of different operations saw police flood train stations and late night businesses to improve safety and reduce crime against international students. Police conducted high visible foot patrols, traffic operations and weapons searches.”

But after the recent Melbourne attack, Chaffey Ward Councillor Gautam Gupta said Victoria Police needed to boost its efficiency.

“We need efficient policing on the street because the impact of a lack of effective policing is very serious on communities,” he was quoted as saying on Radio Australia.

“We need to know how many gangs there are, how do we protect ourselves from these gangs? What’s the police action plan…and how can the community help?”

Published in The Indian Sun (Indian Newspaper in Melbourne)

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