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After a series of unprovoked attacks on their community in the last few days, things are finally coming to a head with over 5000 angry Indian students taking to the streets in Melbourne on Sunday.|
The peace rally, organised by the Federation of Indian Students of Australia (FISA) to create awareness about hate crimes against Sourabh Sharma, Shravan Kumar, Baljinder Singh and many others, began at around 12 noon from the Federation Square and students then marched all the way to the Victorian State Parliament building.
Besides a huge turnout from the Indian community in Australia, the rally also saw some Australians join in to express their solidarity. There was huge police presence, with mounted squads and armed cops maintaining vigil. But while the mood at the rally was aggressive, it was not violent, claims Saurabh Azad who was present at the scene.
"There is so much pent-up anger among people here. I think what students feel most frustrated about is the police inaction. The cops here take so much time just to respond to a complaint when an Indian student faces attack. This is an attempt to bring the problem of our community before the Australian people and thereby put pressure on the Victoria state government and the Australian federal authorities to act," he says on the phone from Melbourne.
The tactic to block Federation Square, Melbourne's city hub, and bring life to a standstill, seems to be working. "There is so much ignorance here. The common man on the street in Australia is just not aware that Indian students, who bring in so much revenue to the country, are being targeted with such brutality. But now with their lives suddenly disrupted by a rally of this kind, they are beginning to ask questions...who are these protestors, what do they want, and so on. Hopefully they will ask the same questions to their leaders and force them to address the concerns of the Indian students a little more seriously than they have in the past," says Azad.
The faith in the local political system certainly seems to be at an all-time low among the students. Australian opposition leaders who tried to address the rally were booed away by the protestors.
Azad holds the Australian media guilty of similar apathy. "The local media too has never taken up the cause of the Indian students. Even now after so much hue and cry, there is just one television channel covering the rally. In fact no one except the FISA has done anything to raise awareness about the problems being faced by the students," he says.
According to Azad, while Sunday's rally was not the best organised, it did provide an outlet for Indian students in Australia to vent their frustration: "No one called anybody for this rally. For days now SMSs have been circulating asking students to get together to register their protest. And I guess they were just waiting for an opportunity like this to draw the attention of the whole country and people in India to their plight."