Controversy of Indian Media in Australia

Over the past few months, we have come across various articles in the media depicting the state of affairs for students of Indian origin living in Australia.  Attacks against Indians (allegedly racially motivated) and, what was perceived to be, a poor response by the police and leaders sparked protests in both Australia and India.  Widespread media coverage in India has been especially critical of Australia’s handling of this violence.  On the other hand, however, the Indian media’s coverage has been likened to hysteria by many in Australia.  Many are saying that the Indian media has done more harm than good in their coverage of the events, and in doing so, have shadowed the real problems faced by students in Australia.

So what exactly is going on?  A few days ago we received an email from a TLH reader in Australia who wanted to share his perspective on the situation:

I am a year 12 student from Australia about to go into university and I would just like to express some opnions which I hope you could take to the readers of The Langer Hall. Recently there has been much uproar in the Indian media and community about these so-called racist attacks on Indian students in Australia. It really pained me to hear how such events could occur in what has developed to be one of the most multicultural countries in the world. Having just finished school I can say that the range of cultures and backgrounds which I have been exposed to…has been awesome. In my fifteen years as a turbaned boy I have not once felt like this country holds any form of racist ideas against me. My father has been a turbaned bus driver, and now a train driver for many years and he expresses similar ideas to me… Just recently the news begins to appear through investigations by Australian Police that many of these attacks on Indian students..were in fact carried out by other Indian students. I am not saying that all the attacks that occur…are by Indians…but i am raising the point that Australia is not as bad as many people make it seem. I see in Indian newspapers everyday that there was some attack on an Indian and they request Indians to stop going to Australia. Yet not one paper made mention of the fact that it was Indian students who had been arrested for the murders. Well I suppose that is expected in India… [-KS]

In addition, the Sikh Federation of Australia has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take urgent action against irresponsible Indian media who are creating sensation on the issue of attacks on Indian students in Australia.

In somewhat related news, a few days ago the UK suspended student visas from India, Nepal and Bangladesh amid heightened concern about illegal immigration from South Asia.

The UK, with Australia, has been marketed heavily to young Indians as an inviting destination for study. Agents market packages offering visas, courses and travel for Indians wishing to study abroad.  More than 500,000 Indians visit the UK every year, among them tens of thousands of students. UK educational institutions are trying to attract more students from India as they compete for academic talent and fees with Australia, the US, Singapore and New Zealand. Education is viewed as a crucial part of relations between India and the UK… A report on the international education sector last month found Australia’s reputation had been damaged by the attacks. About 115,000 Indians studied in Australia last year. [link]

While these issues are somewhat separate – they are inextricably linked and provide a larger commentary on the state of affairs in India and even in Punjab.  Students continue to leave their home countries (resulting in a brain drain) and emigrate to places like the UK and Australia.  It is often not an easy transition.  We recently covered the work being done by S.W.A.T. in the UK to help these students who often end up homeless on the streets of Southall.  Nevertheless, there are just as many success stories (as we read above) of immigrants who have traveled to these countries and been successful.  It is therefore that much more important that media stories are thoughtful and provide a balance in their coverage of these types of incidents because while the media in India is now up-in-arms about the treatment of students in Australia, it was this same media that provided these young students with dream-like stories and images of the West.

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2 Responses to “Controversy of Indian Media in Australia”

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