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Mad About Australia

Sitting with a few friends and compatriots one weekend in Caroline Springs, a new suburb in Melbourne, we got into a heated discussion about the attacks on Indians here.

Much as the attacks were condemned, we ended up more livid on how the media in India was going on an overdrive. A Kashmiri pandit friend says, "we have been displaced from our own state". As someone from the north east I could empathise with his “alienated” sensibility. “We face racial abuses everyday in Delhi.” But the media has never been so rabid as they have in the case of Indian students being attacked in Australia.

A journalist friend who caught me online quipped, “Times Now has waged a war with Australia.” Well, they have succeeded in making their presence felt down under such that the media here refer to Times Now as India's leading televison channel. And it is unfortunate that they would benchmark Arnab Goswami's and his team as the best in a media that has already, and sadly, been dubbed mediocre.

Wonder why Times Now is trying so hard. One news which it ran on its website almost cost a journalist friend his job because he did not file it for his office. Three Indians were refused entry in a pub in Melbourne and they called up Times Now, which immediately ran a story with the headline screaming, "Now Indians denied entry in Australian pub." Other channels in the rat race caught on with the story and soon the pub-hopping men were heroes on the channel. The print reporter friend got a call from his Delhi office asking how he missed the news. The friend did not bother to file the story as it clearly did not fit into a "breaking news" category. The pub management had probably denied admission to avoid any drunken brawl basing on how sensitive the attack issue had become. And the fact is, it is routine for pubs to use their discretion and managerial rights to deny admission. I found myself in similar situations in India but did not make it to the headlines.

The fact is, racism exists everywhere in the world and as much as in India. The attacks, most agree, are part of the perils of living in a big city. You open the major newspapers in Delhi and find hordes of crime stories. I have lived in Delhi and I now live in a new city, but as a woman I feel safer in an alien land because I do not have to watch what I am wearing when I commute in public transports, I do not have to push and shove my way into malls or public spaces, I do not find myself stared at without a blink, and I do not find myself groped in crowded trains.

Most Indians settled in Australia quietly say the onus of protecting oneself lies within each one of us and that students should avoid shady streets or late nights as is the case everywhere in the world. Meanwhile, Arnab should focus his energies of redeeming India’s status in the eyes of the world on other issues, say, the state of the Commonwealth Games, which has received bad publicity all over.

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