At the time, I pointed out that CCTV cameras had caught the gang in action and that the attackers who appeared on camera didn't appear to be Anglo. I suggested that one of the attackers even looked South Asian.
Still, there was an assumption in some quarters that white Australians were targeting and bashing Indians. The Times of India went so far as to issue the following statement:
What's worrisome is the fact that there appears to be a racist undertone to these incidents. They are apparently part of a new fad ...
In any country there are bound to be extreme elements. It's worrisome that the tribe of extreme nationalists who champion an exclusivist, white Aussie identity seems to be increasing in Australia ...
Clearly, Australia cannot afford to be seen as a hostile country if it wants to continue attracting talent, and money, from outside its shores ... such ugly incidents are simply unacceptable, mate.
You can see what The Times of India is really focused on. The Times wants an open borders Australia and therefore labels anyone who defends traditional Australia as an "extreme nationalist" - as the type of person who would bash a foreigner on a train.
It seems the height of arrogance for an overseas newspaper to dictate what another country's national identity may or may not be. It seems hypocritical too for an Indian to demand that Australia have open borders, given that India itself prefers closed borders and a traditional identity.
But the story doesn't end there. The assumption that white Australians were bashing Indian students caught on in India and led to some angry outbursts in the Indian media. Here are three such angry comments left at online Indian media outlets:
An eye for an eye is it? Let's beat the Aussies up and deport them. This is how justice should be given in the 21st century.
These are a breed of people who were deported from Europe for criminal activities. They have criminal genes. It is also clearly visible in cricket. All Australians good or bad living in India must be thrashed and deported.
Repulsive, backward, Aussie filth, the laughing stock of the Western world.
There were some Indians who tried to defend Australians, though even they assumed that white Australians were responsible for the bashings. One writer pointed out that the number of Indians arriving in Australia each year was equivalent (in terms of population size) to 5.5 million foreign arrivals in India each year - something that Indians themselves would not react well to.
But this week came the following news in the Melbourne Herald Sun (30/06/09):
Shock revelation in attack that incited racial tension
Indian on bash charge
A man accused of a bashing that sparked racial tensions between Australia and India was of Indian descent.
The youth, among four boys charged with assaulting and robbing Indian student Sourabh Sharma on May 9, has been released on bail.
Victoria Police have confirmed the alleged attacker was of Indian descent ...
Mr Sharma siad he did not know any of the men were Indian. "I don't know who they were," he said. "It's definitely a shock."
The attack on Mr Sharma ... evoked widespread condemnation of Australians after the footage was beamed across India.
Federation of Indian Students of Australia president Amit Menghani said he was unaware any of the attackers were of Indian descent. "If it was an Indian, I would be disappointed," he said.
So I was correct in suggesting that one of the attackers was of South Asian descent.
One thing that's true is that there have been a lot of attacks on Indian students in Australia; 1447 last financial year according to the police. So the anger of Indian students at the unsafe conditions they face here is understandable.
But the gangs targeting and attacking Indian students aren't Anglo and traditional, but multicultural.
The diversity involved in the attacks on Indian students has been slowly coming through in the media. For instance, here's a report from the Melbourne Herald Sun:
Gangs assault cabbies. Melbourne's Indian and Pakistani taxi drivers are being bashed and robbed by African youth gangs.
This is the wikipedia account of protests in Sydney by Indian students:
On 8 June, 300 Indian students staged a protest in Harris Park late into the evening in response to an alleged assault, claiming they were considered "soft targets".
Some Indian protestors were reported to be carrying hockey sticks and baseball bats. According to police, the protest was sparked by an attack on Indians earlier in the evening allegedly by Lebanese men.
In retaliation the protesters attacked three uninvolved Lebanese men, who sustained minor injuries. This was believed to be the first violent reaction by Indian students against attacks on them. A police dog squad was called in to control the crowd.
A Bangladeshi man was attacked in the Melbourne suburb of Sunshine (Beyond India Monthly, 08/02/09):
When I turned on Anderson Road I saw four black men standing over there. They were blocking my way. I requested them to make way and they started abusing me and my wife Nasir. I kept low, I preferred to step on the road and go around them. As I walked a bit further one of them came running behind us and hit me with the stick. Then they started hitting my wife ... I want action against those African guys. I want them arrested and punished so that they don't touch my lady again.
Simon Overland, the Chief Commissioner of Police in Victoria, has responded to the attacks by sending an additional 75 police officers into the suburbs of Sunshine and St Albans. These are possibly the most diverse, multicultural suburbs of Melbourne. In St Albans, for example, 27.9% of households speak only English at home, compared to 78.5% for Australia in general (and 91% for my own suburb not that far to the east of St Albans).
So the attacks on Indian students are taking place in the suburbs least populated by young Anglo men. It's possible that many Melbournians are already aware of this, as there's been uncommon resistance amongst Anglo-Australians to accepting the blame.
It's been one of the few positives to come out of the whole affair: a sceptical attitude amongst Anglo-Australians that they are, by default, the guilty oppressor group.