Vantage point

Friday, May 29, 2009

Indian Student Murdered Abroad, and the Tamasha Starts

A couple of students have been brutally attacked in Australia, for ostensibly racist reasons. Such incidents are very unfortunate, and I feel for them and their parents. It must be horrible to get that call from abroad about a loved one being killed or being in the hospital because of such barbarity.

What annoys me though is the frenzy whipped up by the media, and the holier-than-thou statements from elements of the Indian government. The media starts publishing paranoid articles about how Indian students are so unsafe abroad, compiling lists of incidents from the US, Europe and now Australia. People in the government start sprouting soundbytes and homilies, demanding from local governments that such attacks should be stopped.

With all this tamasha, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Indian students get murdered only abroad. All students in India are living, hale and hearty. But as a cursory search on google news will show, a student is murdered in India every few days. For a variety of reasons, ranging from lovers quarrels, college politics, random grudges, ragging to kidnapping. There are countless cases of rapes and molestation of women. And a number of suicides. And all these are just reported cases from big urban centers. You can imagine all the unreported or ignored crimes against students in the smaller towns and urban areas, often for religion and caste-based reasons.

Shouldn't the Indian government first ensure that students don't get abused or murdered at home? Making sure that the perpetrators are punished? Working hard at creating a safe environment, especially for female students who even now must be feeling a lot safer abroad than in India?

Then there's the media whipping up a frenzy over these incidents. Our of the tens, if not hundreds of thousands of students that have come to America, maybe 20 or so have been killed. I don't have any data, but my gut feel is that the ratio of victims to total Indian students abroad must be far lower than the ratio of the victims to students in India. In other words, I think the numbers, if anyone has them, will show that an Indian student is much more likely to get attacked or killed in India than abroad.

But reason and logic goes out of the window when sensationalism enters the picture. An Indian student murdered abroad makes for a sensational story. Throw in the element of racism, and it gives all of us the excuse to express moral outrage.

I understand that the element of racism is worrying, and needs to be addressed. It is not the reporting I am bothered by, but the disproportional hysteria that the media tries to whip up. Has anyone bothered to look at how many Indians, students or otherwise, get killed all over India because of their religion or their caste?