03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Indian Paper's KKK Cartoon Condemned By Australia

A cartoon depicting an Australian police officer as a member of the Ku Klux Klan has caused offense in Australia after it was published in an Indian Newspaper.

The image, published in India's Mail Today, was a response to the murder of Indian Nitin Garg, 21, in Melbourne, as well as a string of other attacks on South Asians, which many Indians felt showed a disturbing level of racism in Australian society.

However, Australian authorities have been quick to argue that the incidents cannot necessarily be put down to racism, and may simply be random attacks.

Australian officials have expressed shock at the cartoon, which depicts a figure with an Australian police badge wearing a white hood and saying "We are yet to ascertain the nature of the crime."

"Any suggestion of that kind is deeply, deeply offensive to the police officers involved and I would absolutely condemn the making of a comment like that," said Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

"Cartoons in Australia are normally done by people who are either clever or witty and this one's neither," said the secretary of Victoria's Police Association, Greg Davies.

Bharat Bhushan, editor of the Mail Today newspaper, stood up for the cartoon, saying ''We perceive the Melbourne police to be a racist organization simply because it seems it is not acting fast enough, or seriously enough, on the attacks on Indian students."

Mr Bhushan also argued that Indians were overrepresented in crime statistics - with Indian students making up only 1 out of a 1000 living in Melbourne but accounting for 1 in every 20 attacks.

While many in Australia find the concept of racist attacks on Indian students abhorrent, some have begun to accept that Indian students do seem to suffer disproportionately from crime, and question why this is. The Sydney Morning Herald recently devoted an article to the subject:

In the 12 months to June 2007, 1082 attacks on Indians in Victoria were reported to police - an assault rate of 1700 in every 100,000. Victorian Indians are 2 and a half times more likely than non-Indians to be beaten up or knifed. Why? Furious disagreement prevails. The most contentious theory, the one that has caused such damage to Australian-Indian relations, is that Indian students are targeted by Romper Stomper-style teenage thugs, skinheads looking to reassert control over suburbs newly populated by Sikhs and Hindus; an atavistic and violent response by racists sick of Indians working in every cab, service station and every pub they frequent.

Other ideas suggested were that Indian's represented 'soft targets' who didn't fight back and often carried expensive goods, or that the media furor has been whipped up by an angry Indian government after Australia refused to sell India uranium.

Some now worry that the lucrative Australian education industry may be be rocked by the allegations of racism. A report by Australia's Tourism Forecasting Committee (TFC) in December stated more than 70,000 Indians studied in Australia in 2009, but recent figures show that may drop by 49%.

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