Indian Student Rally Calls For Equality

Indian student rally calls for equality

Vincent Morello
The Sydney Morning Herald
June 7, 2009

Indian students have rallied in Sydney, protesting against racist attacks and calling on the federal government to stop treating them like “cash cows”.

Hundreds of Indian students and supporters rallied at Sydney Town Hall and marched to Hyde Park on Sunday, calling for an end to violence and inequality.

The young Indian men and woman delivered passionate speeches about being bashed and robbed in Sydney, claiming police and other authorities were ignoring their plight.

They also called for Australia's education and immigration policy to be overhauled so overseas students are protected from dodgy landlords and employers and receive the same benefits as domestic students.

The gathering follows a rally in Melbourne in late May of 2,000 demonstrators from the Indian community after a series of recent attacks, including two stabbings.

Student and part-time taxi driver Navjot Singh told the Sydney rally he was recently slashed across the face with a knife.

He implored police to do more to protect foreign students, saying racist attacks occurred on a regular basis in areas of Sydney with large Indian populations.

“There are thousands of people, thousands of Indians – international students every day robbed at Harris Park (railway) station,” he said.

“We are just talking peacefully, nothing else but peacefully. Go and do your duty at Harris Park station.

“Go there, patrol that area – make it safe, make it safe, for God's sake, make it safe!”

National Union of Students president David Barrow told the rally that government policy toward foreign students was discriminatory.

“For too long, the education sector and the government have treated international students like cash cows, not like human beings,” Mr Barrow said.

He said overseas university student fees were rising, landlords and employers were taking advantage of them and they couldn't survive under visas limits of a maximum of 20 hours of work a week.

“It is not acceptable to have 10 or 15 students crammed into an apartment being charged $150 a week (each),” Mr Barrow said.

“And we know that there are bosses out there who say to international students `you work 30 hours a week and we're going to pay you under the minimum wage'.”

Rashmi Kumar, president of the Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association, echoed Mr Barrow's sentiments.

“Now we can stand together, domestic and international students – all together, to try and get an education that's not based on exploitation, on racism, on violence and discrimination,” she said at the rally.

Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell said every NSW resident deserved the same protection under the law.

“Whether it's someone of Indian background or someone of any other nationality, we need to ensure police properly respond to attacks upon citizens in our suburbs,” Mr O'Farrell told reporters