08 January 2010

Hate Crime in Australia...

The murder of a 21-year-old Indian student, Nitin Garg, in a West Footscray park is a tragedy. The young man studying in Australia was on his way to work at a local Hungry Jacks when he was stabbed and killed. However, the murder is certainly testing the bilateral relationship between Australia and India, particularly so with the publication of the above cartoon.

The cartoon, published in Delhi's Mail Today, depicts an Australian police office in Ku Klux Klan garb. The suggestion being that Australian police are racist and not doing enough to solve the murder of Garg. The further suggestion is that Australia is a overtly racist country that is not only unwelcoming of foreigners but a country with a long history of racism towards the indigenous population (Australian Aborigines).

It is not like Australia is the only country in the world that has issues to deal with on the racism front or the treatment of its indigenous population. It is not all that difficult to find Australians who acknowledge as much. However, the majority of Australians are good people, welcoming, caring, understanding, and humble. There are those, though, that exhibit none of these redeeming features. The reality though is that this is true of all countries. India, for example, is not a place that is free from the scourge of racism or violence. The simple truth being that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

The murder of any person I find abhorrent. And, it is no different in this case.

However, to state that the murder of this young man was racially motivated is premature to say the least. It is premature because at this point in time there is not a suspect, at least not that is being publicly discussed. This murder may be a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet, let the police do their job, and if it turns out that the crime is racially motivated, then that is something we as a community must address and deal with no matter what colour, religion, gender, or political persuasion we might have and irrespective of whether we be citizens, residents, tourists, or international students.

The cartoon is offensive. However, I personally do not feel that it goes beyond the line in the sand with respect to what constitutes free speech. The cartoonist is entitled to his opinion, which he has seemingly expressed through this cartoon. Nevertheless, offensive or not, the cold hard reality is that police still have a job to do, and that is everything that they can to find the young man's killer(s).

Perhaps rather than cartoons designed to inflame the situation further we should come together as a community and seek ways to address the concerns of racism and violence in our communities in constructive ways that will see us all creating a better community for our children and our children's children.


Brett said...

Good post Rob. My take on the cartoon is that it accuses the police -- not Australias -- of racism and, worse, not investigating a crime because of it.

Everyone is racist -- to a degree. It's human nature. The trick lies in keeping your prejudices to yourself.

Is there anything to suggest that the police have not investigated the murder properly or given it proper attention? I would be surprised -- very surprised -- if the police were treating this crime any differently to other crimes.

Especially now.

Rob Baiton said...



Yes and no. The cartoon is directed at police. However, Australian police are generally Australian citizens when they are not doing the policing thing. I find it difficult to reconcile the idea that putting on a police officer's uniform makes them racist. Therefore, in that sense, accusing the police of being racist by default levels the charge at all Australians.

I do not agree that it is human nature. We learn prejudice, and we learn it from a very young age. It is not something that I think is inherent in us. Then again, I am no scientist, and my observations are anecdotal.

I look at my own son and how he interacts with others in relation to the above.

Speaking of prejudices. I used to teach an advocacy class and one of the components of that class was focusing on prejudices, recognizing them, and then dealing or living with them.

There is nothing to suggest the police are not doing their job. The negative press further ensures that the police will be making sure that everything that they are doing to solve the case reaches the public domain (at least where it does not compromise the investigation).

Anonymous said...

I've heard of it sometimes ago.

The problem, I suppose, shouldn't be simply contained to the term "racism," true, everybody's racist to a certain degree. But gene is not an all encompassing explanation.

look at the European countries, everybody is itching towards the issue of immigrants taking away the purity of the true europeans. It's the economy, it's the culture, it's the development, the resources, and the policy.

And look at what we have here, Indonesians and Malaysians burning eachother's hat. The popular state of mind seems to assume that each country is filled only with goons, while each of us have peace lovers with intact perspectives, murmuring unnoticed.

this is a learning process, though I'm affraid some of us wouldn't make it to the graduation day.

Rob Baiton said...


Is it as simple as everyone is racist to a certain degree? Or is it that we fear difference and we label that fear racism?

India and Australia have had a few spats over recent years related to racism. Aside from Indians attributing all crime in Australia against Indian nationals to racism, there has been an instance in the sporting arena (cricket) where there was some contention about whether it was racist to call a black man a monkey...I would argue that it is.

Closer to home, in the Indonesian sense, what about a term like "bule"? Indonesians understand its racial connotations and persist in using it. Does this make Indonesians who persist in using the term racist?

The whole racism question is an interesting one that probably deserves a more detailed post than the one that sparked this to and fro.

anong said...

Ill drop this here with about a 9% relevance factor.

Have you read ..?

Freedom of expression in Indonesia
January 09 2010
Patrick Guntensperger

I take exception to this piece - it has holes and errors. Not his usual standard. I was hoping for your wise judgment..?

H. Nizam said...


I heard many stories about Indians being harassed/bullied in Australia
but this is the time I read about murder. I think every countries have potential to face racial problems. The most important thing is that the government and its police should strictly enforce the laws. Otherwise conflict would escalate.

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