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Aussie envoy flays media over attacks
New Delhi, Feb 3 (IANS/PTI)
Published on 4 Feb. 2010 12:42 AM IST
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Australian High Commissioner Peter Varghese Wednesday said the charging of an Indian national in Melbourne for making a false allegation of racism “again demonstrated how wrong initial media reports” could be. “Australia has zero tolerance for violence and zero tolerance for racism. Both are reflected in Australian law, and in the penalties the courts are handing out,” he said in a statement here. His comments came after Australian police said a man of Indian descent who claimed he was doused in petrol and set alight last month was not the victim of a racist attack but injured himself while setting his car alight in a failed attempt at claiming insurance money. Varghese said the incident, in which Jaspreet Singh claimed to have been set alight near his home in Melbourne, was reported around the world as a racist attack. “It had done serious damage to Australia’s image in India. It had fuelled the view that Indians had been singled out for racist attacks in Australia,” said the statement. He said the police investigation had concluded that no such attack had occurred. Quoting the Australian police, Varghese said Singh had “deliberately set fire to his car to claim Australian $11,000 insurance, but inadvertently burned himself in the process”. He said the arrest, together with the arrest Jan 29 of three Indian nationals for the murder of Ranjodh Singh, should be a lesson to all not to cry “racism” every time something bad happened to an Indian national in Australia. Providing an update on actions taken by Australian police, the Australian envoy said more than 50 people have been arrested so far in connection with cases involving Indian nationals. “The Indian public should be assured that the perpetrators will be punished, but please let the police and the courts get on with their work,” he added. Varghese said it was important to “treat each incident seriously” but also “cautioned against judging the nation or the Australian community by the actions of a criminal minority.” MEA summons envoy India has called its High Commissioner to Australia Sujata Singh for consultations in the backdrop of continuing attacks on Indians there. The High Commissioner will be here on February 10 and will brief External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao on the situation, sources said here today. She is expected to give her assessment about what steps the Australian government has taken to prevent the attacks and punish the guilty. Krishna had met his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith in London last week twice on the sidelines on a multilateral conference on Afghanistan. Smith has assured Krishna that a high-level working group would be set up by the federal government and the government of Victoria state to study the spate of attacks on Indians in that country. Over 100 Indians, mostly students have been attacked in Australia since last year, and one of the attacks has been fatal.

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