October 11th, 2010 by Ravi Matah | Posted in News   No Comments »
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India has reacted sharply over news in the Australian media of a racist email scandal involving top Australian police officers. The Australian High Commissioner to India, Peter Verghese, was summoned by the Ministry of External Affairs on Saturday after top Victoria Police were caught circulating offensive mails on an Indian electrocuted on a train.

 A demarche was issued to him on this matter and it was conveyed to him that such an entrenched bias among sections of law enforcers towards the Indian community is a matter of serious concern.  We sincerely hope that apart from taking action against concerned officers, Australian authorities will also take necessary and effective measures to address concerns about safety of all people of Indian origin in Australia.

The officers in Victoria circulated video footage of the electrocution of a man who was travelling on the roof of a crowded train in India and suggested it could be a way to fix Melbourne’s Indian students’ problem, according to a report in the Herald Sun.

“This might be a way to fix the Indian student problem.” That was the plan of the Victoria police, taking their cue from a video which showed an Indian travelling on the roof of a train getting electrocuted when he touched some high voltage cables. The video of a real incident in India, and circulated as a joke by the policemen, was exposed in a sting by Australia’s Herald Sun.

Varghese said: “This involves two policemen, neither of them are senior policemen. I don’t think you should tar the entire Victorian police with the action of two policemen.”

“Can I just say, in relation to this e-mail that the Australian government, the Victorian government and the commissioner of the Victorian police condemn it in the strongest possible terms. This is an e-mail which is offensive; it’s unacceptable and it’s completely contrary to the principles of respect and tolerance that we seek to embed in Australian society,” said Peter Varghese.

He added that it was “very unfortunate that this incident has detracted from the number of positive steps taken by Victorian police”, including the setting up of a round-the-clock help centre for Indians.

Actually the sting implicates 30 police officials, and so far four have been sacked, one demoted, and five others fined. Action has been initiated against 15 others. Despite the Victoria premier John Brumby saying the incident was contrary to Victoria’s values, Indians in Australia are far from reassured.

Nine officers will face the disciplinary panel on October 12 and October 15, with six to be heard the following week, Herald Sun reported today. Two officers quit rather than face the secret hearings.

“We are shocked, and this controversy is appalling. They must issue an apology to the Indian students,” said Gautam Gupta, from the Federation of Indians Students of Australia (FISA).

There are over 70,000 Indian students in Australia. Enrolments from the sub-continent have fallen by half in 2010, after recent incidents of hate crimes.

While more officers will face the disciplinary panel in the next few weeks, all attempts made by the state of Victoria to ease racial tension following the attacks on people of Indian origin have been set back, and may need some drastic damage control.

State Chief Commissioner Simon Overland and Premier John Brumby had condemned the actions of the police involved.

Overland described the material as “disturbing, offensive and gross”, while Brumby said the racist e-mail was “contrary to the views and values at the heart of the Victorian community”.

Ravi Matah.

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