Tuesday, June 16, 2009

46 Indian students fled Australia in the past month

Thiruvananthapuram, June 16 (IANS) At least 46 Indian students have fled Australia following a rise in the number of violent attacks against the community in the past month and many others are being asked by their worried parents to return home, the editor of a Melbourne-based magazine said Tuesday.

'Many students are being pressurised by their parents to return to India. Two universities here have decided not to admit Indian students and educational consultants are now faced with several cancellations by students from India who had secured admissions,' Thiruvallam Bhasi, editor of the Indian Student magazine, told IANS on phone from Melbourne.

Bhasi said two students from Kerala who were attacked had come to his home Tuesday morning and said they were getting ready to leave. The students, Monish Nair and Gautam, were into their second year MBA programme at the Burwood campus of Deakin University in Melbourne.

Nair told IANS that they were attacked by a group of Australians when they were returning to their home in Gillard Street near Melbourne May 23.

'The attack was uncalled for. We were kicked and punched. We filed a case with the police and their attitude made us even more sad. They said it is best not to pursue the case because we are students and there could be problems,' he said.

'When we told our parents about the incident they asked us to return. I will fly out early next month, while Gautam is returning home at the end of this week,' he added.

A two year MBA programme in Australia costs about Australian $60,000 (Rs.2.5 million).

'We are losing a lot of money because we have paid virtually the entire fees and we have one full semester to go. But enough is enough. Our parents are worried and they want us to return,' said Nair.

Indo Asian News Service

Friday, June 12, 2009

Nepal's first woman deputy PM dead

Kathmandu, June 12 (IANS) Shailaja Acharya, the only woman politician in Nepal to have been a deputy prime minister, died here early Friday after a long battle with Alzheimer's and pneumonia.

The 65-year-old, who came from one of the most politically active families of Nepal, had been admitted to the Teaching Hospital here Wednesday after receiving treatment earlier in New Delhi and Bangkok.

The death of Acharya, niece of Nepal's first elected prime minister Bishweshwor Prasad Koirala and aunt of Bollywood star Manisha Koirala, would be mourned in Nepal as well as India where she spent nine years in exile and was close to veteran Indian Congress and Socialist leaders, especially former Indian premier Chandra Shekhar.

Acharya entered politics as a student when, inspired by her family's role in the pro-democracy movement, she showed a black flag to then king Mahendra, who held absolute power. She was jailed for three years for the offence.

A member of the Nepali Congress (NC) party, she won two elections from her home district in Morang in eastern Nepal and became the first woman in Nepal to head the water resources ministry as well as become deputy prime minister.

The soft-spoken, petite leader, however, started losing her position in the party after Mahendra's son Gyanendra seized power through a bloodless coup. She tried to vie for the leadership of her party but was pipped by her younger uncle, Girija Prasad Koirala, who still remains president of the NC.

She was also the subject of controversy after she supported constitutional monarchy and opposed joining forces with the Maoists to end Gyanendra's regime.

Acharya blamed her fall to the fact that she was a woman and not taken seriously in Nepal's male-dominated political arena despite her sacrifices.

During Nepal's pro-democracy struggles, she was also forced to live underground for two years in addition to spending nine years in exile in India.

But two years ago, it seemed her flagging political career would be revived after Koirala recommended her name as Nepal's ambassador to India despite opposition from his own party men and allies.

However, fate dealt a blow to Acharya when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and had to be hospitalised.

Since then, she had dropped out of the public eye, hitting the headlines only because of her deteriorating condition and the alleged negligence by her party to help with her treatment.

Strong quake hits Vanuatu - USGS

A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck off the Vanuatu islands in the Pacific Ocean on Friday, the U.S. Geological Survey said, but local police said there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

The quake was centred 38 miles west-northwest of Port Vila and had a depth of 33 miles, the USGS said.

"There was no damage and no casualties. We have not received any reports from the outer islands," a police official said by phone from Vanuatu.

Anti-Taliban cleric killed in Pakistan blast

A prominent anti-Taliban Pakistani Muslim cleric was killed on Friday in a suicide bomb attack in Lahore, police said.

In another blast at around the same time, a suicide car-bomber set off explosives in an attack on a mosque in the northwestern town of Nowshera, killing at least three people, police said.

The blasts came as Pakistani forces stepped up attacks on militants across the northwest after the U.S. House of Representatives approved tripling aid to Pakistan to about $1.5 billion a year for the next five years.

Security forces have made progress in more than a month of fighting against Taliban militants in the Swat valley, northwest of Islamabad, and in recent days have begun operations in several other parts of the region.

The militants have responded with a series of bomb attacks.

Moderate cleric Sarfraz Naeemi was attacked at his office at his mosque complex after leading Friday prayers.

"Unfortunately, Maulana Sarfraz Naeemi has been martyred," Lahore police chief Pervez Rathore told Reuters.

The cleric's brother, Tajwar Naeemi, said seven people were wounded in the attack that killed his brother.

"When I came out of the office a few people went in and the suicide bomber was probably among them," the brother said.

In Nowshera, in North West Frontier Province, three people were killed and more than 20 were wounded, police said.

Rising Islamist violence has raised fears for Pakistan's stability and for the safety of its nuclear arsenal but the offensive in Swat has reassured the United States about its commitment to the global campaign against militancy.

Pakistan is a vital ally of the United States as it struggles to stabilise neighbouring Afghanistan and defeat al Qaeda.

U.S. officials said on Thursday insurgent violence in Afghanistan had accelerated sharply alongside the arrival of new U.S. troops, reaching its highest level since 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta said he believed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan and he hoped joint operations with Pakistani forces would find him.


The offensive in Swat has broad public support and the bombs in response appear to be hardening opinion against the militants.

Naeemi was an outspoken critic of suicide attacks which he said were un-Islamic.

"The military must eliminate the Taliban once and for all,"

Naeemi told Reuters last month. "Otherwise they will capture the entire country which would be a big catastrophe."

Police in Bannu, a town in North West Frontier Province adjacent to the North Waziristan militant stronghold on the Afghan border, said the military had fired artillery through the night at militant positions in the Jani Kheil area.

"Since sunrise, helicopter gunships have also being used in the attack. There have been reports of casualties on the militant side," police official Sami Ullah told Reuters.

More than 130 militants have been killed in the fighting near Bannu this week up to Thursday, according to military officers and a senior civilian official in the area.

Independent casualty estimates for the fighting in Bannu and other parts of the northwest are not available.

Gunship helicopters also attacked militants in the Bajaur and Mohmand regions on the Afghan border, both to the north of the city of Peshawar, military officials and residents said.

There has also been fighting this week in the South Waziristan and Orakzai ethnic Pashtun tribal regions.

The military's chief spokesman was not available for comment but an analyst said the various air strikes appeared aimed at keeping militants bottled up.

"The operation in Swat has entered its final stages and troops are engaging militants elsewhere to stop them going to Swat and to disrupt their network," said Mahmood Shah, a former chief of security in the Pashtun tribal areas.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved tripling aid to Pakistan to about $1.5 billion a year for the next five years in a key part of a strategy to combat extremism with economic and social development.

The fighting in Swat and other parts of the northwest has displaced about 2.5 million people and aid officials have appealed to donors to step up their help.

(Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider, Hasan Mehmood, Javed Hussain and Augustine Anthony)

5 persons have narrow escape as plane crashes into 4WD vehicle near Johannesburg

Melbourne, June 12 (ANI): Five persons had a narrow escape when a plane had a head-on crash with a four-wheel-drive Ford vehicle.

Just after taking off from a South African runway, the light aircraft plunged down towards a secluded road near Krugersdorp Airport, west of Johannesburg, on Sunday afternoon.

The two-seater Piper Cherokee ploughed into a Ford ute, which was carrying three people, and then burst into flames.

According to South African newspaper The Times, no one was killed in the crash.

Pilot John Thompson and George Carney, who trapped inside the burning aircraft for some time, were taken to hospital. Both of them sustained "serious" injuries.

Tony van Aswegen, who was sitting in the back of the ute, was thrown onto the road but escaped injury.

Monica Braganca and Anna Vaulina, who were inside the vehicle, were treated for shock at the scene.

Vaulina revealed that watching the plane dive down towards their vehicle, she thought that she was done for.

"I was thinking we were going to die, not one ounce of me thought I was going to survive. It felt like in a movie," News.com.au quoted her as telling The Times.

"I couldn't say anything, no one was screaming. I just thought it was the end, I'd never be lucky enough to escape it.

"The scary part was seeing the faces of the pilots looking straight at us," she added.

Braganca, who was driving the ute, said that she was lucky that the vehicle was sturdy.

"We saw the plane coming down, I honestly didn't think it would crash and it would pull up. When it hit the ground, I just closed my eyes and kept my foot on the brakes and braced myself. We pretty much saw it coming," she said. (ANI)

Another Indian student attacked in Oz

Melbourne, June 12 (ANI): In yet another attack on Indians in Australia, a 22-year-old student was allegedly assaulted by a teenager in Adelaide's busy Rundle Mall.

According to the police, the attack took place on Thursday. The student suffered a broken nose.

A 17-year-old youth has been arrested in connection with the case.

Meanwhile, Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney organised another rally against what they claimed were racially motivated attacks by groups of Middle Eastern men.

There have been a string of attacks in Melbourne during the past few days, which Australian authorities insist have been crime-related.

Indian students believe that the attacks were acts of racism and warned of "curry bashings" in Australia, where foreign students more than 12 billion dollars contribute. (ANI)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Indian students protest after more attacks

Sydney, June 9 (IANS) About 200 Indian students Monday night protested against perceived police apathy after two Indian men were attacked by ethnic Lebanese in the western Sydney suburb of Harris Park.

During the protest lasting until the early hours of Tuesday, three ethnic Lebanese were assaulted, sparking fears of inter-communal tensions in a city home to over 200 different nationalities.

'I don't think there's any suggestion that they (attacks) are racially motivated. Certainly it would appear to us that they were opportunistic and that this is an area of Harris Park where there's a very large Indian community', Police Superintendent of the Parramatta Local Command, Robert Redfern said.

However, Indian overseas student Ajay Kumar told Australian Associated Press (AAP) news agency, that he joined the protest after being a victim of assaults and to demand more police protection.

'I never come back home at night time. If I finish my work, I stay there. Why? Because I know if I come back, someone smash me, someone take my money', Kumar told AAP.

There were no charges laid and no victims needed hospital treatment in the overnight attacks.

There have been a spate of attacks in recent weeks, which overseas Indian students insist are racially motivated and the police are not doing enough to stop them.

Jimit Shah, 26, told AAP: 'I just came out the station and I [was] just near to my house, and I just see some of the Indians behind me, and suddenly some Lebanese come over there, and just they hit the Indian people, and they are my brothers'.

However, the police reiterate that Indian overseas students are more vulnerable and likely to be victims of crime because of working late and travelling on public transport late at night and in the early hours of the morning.

Meanwhile, in yet another tit-for-tat, a 20-year-old man was stabbed once in the neck and twice in the arm in the St Albans suburb of Victoria on Monday after allegedly racially abusing a group of Indian students, The Age newspaper reported.

'There is a danger this will become like a chain reaction with the victim becoming the perpetrator. We don't want to get to that,' Sam Afra, chairman of the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria, told The Age.

The attacks have received wide spread coverage in India, damaging Australia's reputation as a friendly and safe study destination and straining bilateral relationship.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith Tuesday told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: '...we're doing everything we can to make sure that Indian students can come to Australia and not have to worry about their safety and security...we want very much to bring the perpetrators to justice, whatever their motivation, but also ensure that we're doing everything we can to put at ease the concerns of Indian mums and dads whose sons and daughters are far away in Australia and to provide them every service that we can to put their minds at rest'.

The Australian government has set up a new task force under National Security Adviser Duncan Lewis to coordinate the government's response to the recent spate of attacks on Indian international students.


Another Indian student attacked in Oz

Mon, Jun 8 02:33 PM

Natasha Chaku Melbourne, Jun 8(PTI) A 23-year-old Indian student was beaten up for the second time in a fortnight by a group of youths here, the 11th person from the community to be assaulted within a space of a month in Australia. Kamal Jit was found unconscious and bleeding by another Indian student in western suburb of the city yesterday.

It was the second attack in two weeks on Jit, who was previously pelted with eggs by several masked men after getting off a late night train at St Albans station in western suburb. "It is very bad because we pay a lot of money and we are living far away from our country and from our families and we are without protection," Jit was quoted as saying in 'The Age' newspaper today.

As he walked home at about 1:40 am yesterday, Jit said, he noticed three men acting suspiciously in a car and he tried to avoid them. He then saw two men come out of it near a pizza shop, while another waited in a car.

"The two guys pushed me to the ground and I was hit on the head, I think with a steel rod," Jit said. PTI.