MELBOURNE, Australia – Thousands of demonstrators protesting violence against Indian students filled streets in Australia’s second largest city Sunday, as the foreign minister said the government was doing everything it could to solve the crime problem.
The demonstration by predominantly ethnic Indian men came after the Indian and Australian governments held top-level discussions about the safety of more than 90,000 Indians studying in Australian universities.
Five Indian students were stabbed and beaten in two unrelated incidents in Melbourne in the past week. One victim, Sravan Kumar, 25, remains in critical condition in a Melbourne hospital after being stabbed with a screwdriver at a party.
Another student was beaten and robbed on a train earlier this month.
Police argue that Indian students often fall victim to assault in Melbourne because they travel alone late at night to work long hours at part-time jobs and are known to carry valuable items such as laptop computers. They urged students to take precautions.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said he discussed the problem with his Indian counterpart, S.M. Krishna, last week and promised that Australia was doing all it could to prevent the violence and prosecute the perpetrators.
“We have a particular current problem with Indian students,” Smith told Ten Network television. “It’s an issue we’re very well aware of and we’re working very closely with the relevant state authorities as a consequence.”
Police spokeswoman Alison Noonan said between 2,000 and 3,000 protesters gathered in central Melbourne. But television news footage suggested thousands more were involved in the peaceful rally organized by an Indian student union.
Australian police often issue low estimates of crowds at protests.
The student union has demanded more police at train stations and other problem areas and compensation for crime victims.
It has called on the Indian government to declare Australia an unsafe destination for Indian students if the attacks continue.
Sujatha Singh, India’s high commissioner to Australia, met Friday with Victorian State Premier John Brumby and senior police and educators to express her government’s concerns over the violence.