Australian rules

Attack victims must make their case within the bounds of Australian law

Both SM Krishna, India’s foreign minister, and Kevin Rudd, the Australian prime minister, have advised Indian students against—pardon the cliche—taking the law into their own hands. First, Mr Krishna urged the students “to be patient and show restraint…and concentrate on (studies) rather than retaliate”. Then Mr Rudd warned that “it’s unacceptable for anyone to commit an act of violence against any student of any ethnicity anywhere in Australia. It’s equally unacceptable for so-called reprisal attacks and for so-called vigilante action as well.” While Mr Rudd’s attempt to draw an equivalence between the two can be debated, what is indisputable is the fact that where there is rule-of-law, violation of the law has no justification.

But if there is rule-of-law in Australia, why do the Indian students feel the need to set-up “vigilante groups” to protect their compatriots? This is, first, a question for the Australian government and Australian society to contemplate. At the very least it suggests that the response of the Australian state after the first few attacks was found wanting.

Be that as it may: there is no excuse for violating the law. The Indian government must spare no attempt to ensure the safety and security of Indian nationals anywhere in the world. Where they are innocent victims, the government must do what is necessary to protect them and ensure that justice is done. But if they are accused or guilty of an offence, the government’s job is not to apologise or shield them, but rather, that due legal processes are followed and their rights are protected.

Tailpiece: On the matter of racism: Australia is not a racist country. There are racists in Australia, some of who attack foreigners. But it is incorrect and unfair to extend this argument and characterise the whole country as racist. There are anti-racists too and they are speaking up.