Appreciating Indian Diplomats, Exposing FISA and Dissecting inaccurate Outlook.

“Ambassador” reminds Indians of the outdated technology even shunned by the politicians now. “Diplomat” reminds my friend Bubbly of a liquid that comes in a bottle. “High Commission”er reminds many in my trade of private colleges in Melbourne (also in London and Auckland).
I am however referring to the Indian diplomats the role being played by our two envoys in Australia. Mrs Sujatha Singh and Ms Anita Nayar have not just won appreciation from Indians worldwide but also from the Australians. Sujathaji as High Commissioner has fully defended Indian interests and has not hesitated in raising any genuine concern that there may be. I was pleasantly surprised to notice the clarity in her interpretation of the situation when I met her in Canberra with the AAERI delegation in her office about six months ago. Clarity, not just with the situation but also with the technicalities of the Australian visa regulations and significantly more than the then awareness level of senior officials from the state of Victoria.

Sujathaji has always been prompt in her email replies whenever I have had an issue and even when we met, she did not rush us with the meeting and allowing adequate time to go over the issues. Mr Sharma, Deputy High Commissioner and Mr Kapoor, Second Secretary in Canberra very ably support her.
Hence when on Thursday morning I learnt that she paid a visit to the Governor General to raise India’s concern, I was not surprised at all. Stern message delivered with a balance and devoid of generalisation. I quote from the report in The Age (full article on this link):
Mrs Singh, who sought the meeting with Ms Bryce in Sydney last Friday, is believed to have told the Governor-General that Australia is not racist but warned of long-term consequences unless more action was taken to prevent attacks.
She praised police in NSW, Queensland and South Australia for tackling racist attacks but said Victoria was taking too long to respond.
What baffled me more was the spin being offered by TIMES NOW even to this meeting and without commenting further I provide copies of the report that appeared on NDTV and TIMES NOW and you can judge the different tones in each of them. While NDTV is similar to what is being reported elsewhere and possibly more accurate, Times Now seems hell bent to give it another “sinister touch” in line with whatever else they have done in last many months.
While talking of Victoria, we need to also acknowledge the role played by the wonderful Ms Anita Nayar who is our consulate General in Melbourne. The praise that she has received from the Australian Media is evident from this article in THE AGE. She is certainly at home in Melbourne and if you have not seen the article yet, you must do it before you go with rest of my opinion. 
Thank You Maams. Sare Jahan Se Achcha Hindostan Hamara… Indeed.
I had promised that I would review the Outlook cover story WHY AUSTRALIANS HATE US (Feb 8, 2010 issue that hit the stands on 30th January 2010. See link.). Outlook journo Pranay Sharma apparently wrote it from the ground in Melbourne and that is the reason why I am more surprised as he has allowed the glaring mistakes in the reporting. It is primarily these errors that even let its Editor Vinod Mehta get confused and become “partners in crime” with Arnab Goswami in one of the televised debates.
Pranay summarised the total number of incidents of crime against “Indians” in 2007-08 as 1447. I think I know where he picked up this figure. This is what the Victoria Police provided as stats in June 2009. No police complaint asks for the nationality of the complainant and hence one needs to find out what Victoria Police meant by “Indians”. I have talked to senior officials of Victoria Police and questioned exactly this to learn that the sergeants who take down the crime make a note indicating the “appearance” of the complainant and amongst the options that they are used to tick for the appearance is the category called “Indians”. There are no categories for Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans or Fijian Indians as they are all entered as “Indians”. This point has been also clarified several times by the Victorian Police after the first press briefing on this topic. The Victorian Police officials who participated in Press meets in India have also clarified the same. Hence, the 1447 instances of any kind of crime from simple mugging, robbery to attacks against people of “Indian appearance” get tabulated as “Indians” . I just hope that Pranay did indeed talk to Victorian Police officials and not just recycled incorrect reports made available to him by certain interested parties.

The journo also quotes Gautam Gupta stating that 33 Indians have died in last 6 years. Had the correspondent dig deeper into this number and this average of 5 deaths a year will expose a high proportion due to accidents or even drowning by the side of the sea. There is a need to question the credibility of this spokesperson and the organisation that he belongs to. He has elements that he chooses to keep “Gupt” (Secret) and is certainly not a “Gautam”(peace loving Lord Buddha). Our mate ceased being an Indian student 7 years ago and thereafter took up the Australian permanent residence and reportedly has even given up the Indian citizenship in favour of the becoming an Australian national. If it is a “racist” country why has he chosen to embrace it for his family over the land of his birth? India doesn’t still allow dual citizenship and hence he ceases to be an Indian citizen the moment he takes pledge of loyalty for Australia. When he claims to be spokesperson of Federation of Indian Students in Australia, I question this too as he is neither an “Indian” nor a “Student” technically. I have met Gautam a few times and have questioned him on this. He knows that not just me but several except TIMES NOW are now aware that FISA has no membership and there is no subscription and hence a question does arise on its funding leading to further question on its agenda.  It may be more approriate to call it FISA pty ltd. With this understanding, I question the importance that Indian media gives to this spokesperson or the body. I really wish that the Outlook correspondent had utlised the stay in Melbourne and had walked into any Melbourne based University, interviewed an Indian “University” student on random (not prompted by FISA) and asked him the simple question: Are you a member of FISA and do you think it represents you?
Gautam seems to be a person who has now got led into a one-way road from which he is attempting to move out. He does deserve credit for coming to aid of some Indian students in mid last year. However, he should also take (dis) credit for being the one who accidentally on a live TV program over satellite linkup gave the reason for the attacks as “racism” and from this one slip-up the entire controversy took birth harming not just the Indian population in Australia but totally putting the G2G relationship at edge. One of the finest and balanced debates on this topic was on the SBS TV channel where the discussion begins and ends with this quip… This was six months ago and those who missed it at that time can take a look on this link . In this debate, India’s Sydney based Consul General Dasgupta makes a strong presence and made me look forward to the interaction with him in Sydney that week. However post my meeting, I felt disappointed. I know that he was relatively new in Sydney then having succeeded Mr Chinoy (with whom I had corresponded very productively in past). Apart from the generalised idea he had about education advisors and thought of all as dodgy, he also described Gautam Gupta as a student who on arrival in Australia was badly attacked and hence formed FISA to take up the cause of like affected Indian students. The fact is, as confirmed to me by Gautam himself, is nothing like this. Dasgupta babu, I am sure has learnt more and more on this topic and would know that all education agents are not the same and there is indeed an “organised” sector too in India and MOIA in Delhi is aware of it. As my friend Gulshan says, there are good and bad doctors, good and bad lawyers, good and bad politicians and so are there good and bad education counsellors. Generalisations are akin to calling all Aussies as racists. Some terrorists being Pakistanis donot make all Pakistanis as terrorists.
Gautam and FISA have clearly changed their track now I have talked about this in an earlier blog and I quote him from an article in The Telegraph:
“But in my carefully considered opinion, racism would be the cause of a significant minority of attacks on Indian students in Victoria. Indians have so much to offer this state and this country, so let’s not find ourselves in a situation like Fiji. Despite three or four centuries of significant contribution, the Indian influence there is constantly downplayed, but if things are properly handled, Indians could have a tremendous opportunity to shape the future of Australia.”
(This is the same person who called all Australians as Racist six or seven months ago. Now he does say that racism is the cause of a significant minority of attacks. Gautam, the damage is already done.)
Gautam, my best wishes to you in your political aspirations. This is fine but there are politicians for all kinds. In India we have a Rahul Gandhi who wants “India to belong to all Indians” and we have Varun Gandhi who may want “Hindus to cut the arms of erring Muslims”. Choose your philosophy well as history will not forgive you for your carelessness. Be a “Gautam” and build bridges.
The incorrect calling of all Australians as “racist” has not just harmed his own profile but has reduced FISA to just another “four lettered word”. Will Indians really consider him as their community leader?
Now that he has given up his Indian citizenship and has not been a student for a long time , he should consider a memberships of more appropriate bodies than FISA. Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), I understand, is one such and recently Mr Umesh Chandra has been involved in active work in partnership with QLD government to build bridges between communities. Mr Chandra is the President of GOPIO (Qld) and is the Vice President of Federation of Indian Communities in Queensland. Staying with some such, there is a hope of osmosis (OZmosis).

Talking of the Rahul Gandhi and Varun Gandhi, brings me back to the OUTLOOK article. Outlook article gives unusually high importance to comments made by Australian PM’s nephew who is young and shares the same “Rudd” surname (and blood similar to Gandhi cousin) and to fully “milk the value of the surname to whatever it might be worth”.

How foolish, may I say, considering that this character doesn’t mean anything to anyone in Australia and none had heard of him prior to the KKK outfit that he wore ten days ago. Indian Media does know how to make nobody into somebody.
The magazine’s article also prominently highlights “anti-migrant” quotes from two outfits and in the absence of any comments from other leaders of either the labour or liberal parties (barring an interview of the Premier) anyone with a casual look at the article will think of these to be the feeling of common Australians. However the irony is that the text actually goes on to say and I quote “Neither the Australian First Party nor One Nation matters much in Australia’s parliamentary politics.” This is true considering that One Nation has lost even the one seat in the parliament that it had. In fact, the text indicates that the head of the Australia’s First Party blames the attacks on the migration from Muslim countries and Africa (which too is politically motivated though referring to several of the attackers being non-whites) but Mr Mehta when participating on the Newshour debate continued to quote his report and report all attackers as white Australians.
There are other inconsistencies too in the article. At one place it states
… Rich can keep away from troubled areas not travel in public transport and are therefore less vulnerable to racial abuse or attacks.

The problem with this argument is that unlike India, 100% of Indians in Victoria either use public transport themselves or for their family members and hence if one can be affected another can too. Secondly, the very example provided in the next paragraph of the article talks of the rich Indians blaming the poor Indians for their social behaviour but the so called “rich Indian” quoted by the writer was the manager of the petrol pump who detailed the uncomfortable social manners of Indians. Since when have “managers of petrol pumps” become examples for “rich Indians in Australia”. Get your facts right, Mr Mehta. I agree with the manager completely about the social behaviour of some of our brethren that is making us look bad.

Mr Mehta and Outlook: Are you not falling in the trap… Outlook was known for its articles last year that had given one of the finest perspectives on the attacks. This story that appeared on June 15 (Melbourne Ultimatum link), in my opinion, provides the correct diagnosis of the problem and well before others realised it. Outlook also carried an interesting perspective on Racism and I provide a link to one such article.
Mr Mehta, as an admirer of your journalism, I do want you to take a good look at the above arguments and also your previous coverage of the issue in your own publication without being defensive and you will realise that the publication that exposed match-fixing and arms-deal should now expose the media-fixing by some interested parties and the echoing of incomplete and void arguments. I am not giving up on Outlook at all though Times Now is another story.
India is giving up on Arnab Goswami even though I learn that he has been named as Assamese of the Year (see link). The land that has produced Bhupen Hazarika could certainly have found a better candidate. Kaushik Barua, do you agree? Maybe VVS Laxman doesn’t need to look too far for a “spinner” and Assam can find a player in the national team finally. Bhajji and Murli do have competition from Arnab and seeing his performance on TV, they are no match.
Arnab cannot discount the importance of such awards now but I am not surprised that he and his channel chose to ignore that just last week an Indian scientist was named AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR by the state of Western Australia. This news was picked up by the India Today, which writes in the Eye-Catchers:
Indian-Origin researcher of Alzheimers disease, Ralph Martin, 52, was named Australian of the Year 2010 by the Government of Western Australia for his role in identifying the Alzheimer’s causing protein in the brain.
I have only two questions for Times Now:
1. What is the basis of your claim that 412 racist attacks on Indian students have occurred in last 2 months? Indian Government claims about 100. Outlook magazine talks of 130 of which with 30 being students but Times Now even when talking to the Outlook editor kept flashing the number as 412 on the screen in prominence like they called the killing of Indian by an Indian as racistm and the Insurance driven act of Jasbir as hate crime.
2. What prompted you to call the killers of Ranjodh Singh in one of your despatches as “Aus couple” when everyone else called them “Indian Couple”?
Not sure if a dip in Brahmputra will change anything but atleast he can correct the information on the Times Now website. See link that headlines incorrectly indicating the accused arrested for Ranjodh murder as “Australian Couple”.
I want to end this blog with the quote from the Lord Mayor of Melbourne Robert Doyle who surprised the journalists who met him by his idol as the famous Rudy Giuliani, Mayor of NY City during 9/11. If Mayor Doyle does indeed take tips from Mayor Giuliani, the crisis in Melbourne will soon be history…
“Let’s take the colour and the race out of it and just try to get to the root of the problem and fix that, and remember whether they’re Indian or Chinese students or Australian nationals these are young people in our streets who are being injured and who feel, very threatened.”
Cr Doyle said the Indian media had been irresponsible, but said Australia had immediately gone into defensive mode when the attacks began.
“We instantly went into ‘we are not a racist country’ and we’re not, we are not a racist country. Are there some people who are racists in our community? Absolutely. Are they targeting Indian students? Well maybe some of them are when you look at the rates that Indian students are being attacked.
“If we all calm down and forgot about solving the ‘we are, we aren’t’ racist issue and focused on solving the problems, I think we’d all be better off.”

6 Comments

  1. Ravi, i think you have got it wrong here. i 'surprisingly' find that you are basing all your conclusion on facts. Nowadays facts are a not appreciated at all. A war in Iraq was fought on Spin, I again recommend 'Wag The Dog' to see how its done.Vinod Mehta we all agree was at his best when he edited a mens' magazine of repute, nowadays his journalistic efforts are restricted to being the lackey of one political party and its first family. With such a culture it is not surprising that his appearances on TV are a mode of holding up his magazine and trying to promote it. Its pretty obvious to all that he has lost his mojo, so what can he do but enrol for a mutual admiration club with Arnab. Arnab Goswami is an example of everything that is wrong with Assamese society.If a great cricketer masquerading as a newsreader is our role model,its a matter of time there will be no ' Assamese of the Year' to be given.Appearing on TV seems to be a measure of a person's success. Not that i am sure how this works anymore as i have watched NDTV, TimesNow, CNNIBN the last couple of days. The qualification to be an 'Analysts' on serious political issues seems that you have to be a starlet whose claim to fame is roles with minimal clothes(you qualify to be called an activist then!!!).Is this what we as a country deserve? Have we become that dumb? I wonder how you have debates between a former diplomat and a mentally challenged , giggling starlet on that state of the nation?Its time we worked on spreading our message and demanding that these channels put their political affiliations, interests up there as disclosure before indulging in any debate.And for a change maybe we can demand at least they include about 30% fact in their reporting , then probably your arguments would stand a chance ..

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  2. Hi Kaushik,I guess you are right… I have indeed looked at a wrong place hoping for facts. Have seen "wag the dog" and it was indeed very timely when it came out.Would recommend that you see RANN and it is timely now.

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  3. FISA is unknown in Indian community. There are quite a few emerging groups claiming to represent students in various parts of Australia. I believe they all have their own hidden agendas.I heard the so called "reduction in visas from New Delhi" is due to attacks. That is wrong! The reduction is due to the fact that large number of applicants are "not genuine" students. Most have used fraud documents to support their applications. And let us not blame just the smaller education agents. Bigger agencies are similarly involved. Without fraud documents, bigger agencies in Punjab and many other parts of India, cannot simply survive. The result is for everyone to see now. Are biggies able to survive now? I don't think so. Smaller agencies have already either shut down, eloped with monies or shifted focus to other means or countries… that's a sensible thing to do methinks.

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  4. FISA has moved from "AAM ADMI in Australia" to media's darling by hammering unsafe Kangaroo. Guys Aam Admi – (students / migrants) requires roti, Kapda and Makan and not unsafe Kangaroo.

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  5. All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them. Racism is a serious global issue spread all over the world. Discrimination and acts of racism occurs against nearly all minority groups everywhere in the world not just on Indian students in Australia. Racism / hate/ urban crime or anything could have been the reason for attacks in Australia but again the racism issue has been overplayed by the Media. The media made it look like every Indian is being attacked and targeted on the streets of Melbourne. I am confident that the attacks were a very unhappy and sad coincidence. Tag of ‘racism’ will only complicate things and sow the seed of hatred. The voice of Indian students in Australia has been heard by the highest authorities in Australia government today. The governments of both the countries also have been in a dialogue over this issue. The government of Australia has assured strict action on the accused. In addition to this it is taking steps to safeguard the student community and we must give them some time. I think we all must open our eyes and look into the facts as mentioned in Ravi’s blog. It reminds me of the famous quote by Late Sri Rabindranath Tagore which says “We read the world wrong and say that it deceives us” FISA – did any one know who runs this and what they do earlier? This organization claims that they have been looking after Indian students in Melbourne and are safeguarding them. I myself spoke to many students who are unaware of anything about this organization. FISA has played its cards right at the right time and took advantage of the situation by misquoting the facts for their own publicity and goals. Indian media: The demands on the media, whether in Australia or India, are similar. They need to create sensation and attract largest number of viewers. Some sections of the media often ignore the facts, are irresponsible and can cause a lot of damage. What we are seeing is a classic example of this..

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  6. Ravi do appreciate your emotions.I seriously think Premier John Brumby from Victoria & Commissioner Simon Overland have got themselves a strong competitor in you.Mr Overland was quoted on the 'Sydney Morning Herald' to have 'adviced' Indian students to 'dress poorer' and avoid attacks.Thats outrageous !Should Baxter be reopened choc-a-block with ' poorly dressed Indian students ' am sure a change in career as a guardsmen for you would be much apt.Carry on mate ! You sizzle with promise.Rajat

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