India unimpressed by Oz and Kiwi racist jokes
Australia and New Zealand’s relations with India are coming under strain thanks to some crass attempts at humour
Australia and New Zealand have a reputation as welcoming countries - as the thousands of Britons who migrate Down Under each year could attest. But the countries' relationship with another source of skilled migrants - India - is becoming less friendly by the day.
Accusations of racism towards Indians have recently been thrown around in Australia and New Zealand even while their athletes compete in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
Only this week in Australia, details emerged of an email that has been circulated among police in the state of Victoria. It contained footage of an Indian man on top of a train being electrocuted by overhead wires and was accompanied by a comment suggesting it could be a way to "fix" the Indian student "problem". As many as 15 officers face disciplinary charges related to the email.
The affair has reopened a row that last boiled over in January after a string of attacks on Indians across Australia culminated in the killing of Nitin Garg, a 21-year-old accountancy student, in Melbourne, the state capital of Victoria.
The Indian media were outraged by the treatment of their citizens Down Under and decried Australia as a racist country that refused to protect Indians who had moved there to further themselves. Australia's reaction to India's coverage, which included a cartoon depicting an Australian police officer as a member of the Ku Klux Klan, was typically blunt.
Members of the Australian government attacked the Indian media and the secretary of Victoria's Police Association, Greg Davies, observed: "Cartoons in Australia are normally done by people who are either clever or witty and this one's neither."
Tensions continue to simmer in Melbourne and as the Sydney Morning Herald reported earlier in the year: "Being Indian in Melbourne in 2010 is not the most comfortable of situations."
Over in New Zealand, well-known TV host Paul Henry was forced to resign at the weekend after an interview with prime minister John Key, in which he questioned whether Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand, who is of Indian-Fijian heritage, could really be a Kiwi.
He asked whether Sir Anand was "even a New Zealander" and urged an uncomfortable-looking Key to ensure that his successor would "look and sound like a New Zealander".
Perhaps worse was Henry's mocking of Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, which also sparked a diplomatic incident. During a feature about preparations for the Commonwealth
Games he deliberately mispronounced the name. Despite being told it was pronounced Dix-it, he giggled away for over a minute - at one point calling her dip-shit - as his mortified co-presenters shuffled awkwardly.
Another high-profile media figure in New Zealand, radio presenter Michael Laws has also apologised after he waded into the row over Henry's comments about Sir Anand. He made matters worse when he told his listeners: "[Sir Anand] is a very large, fat man. I don't know why but just on an Indian it seems slightly incongruous.
"I mean, we don't all expect Indians to be begging on the streets of New Delhi, but it's like Anand discovered the buffet table at, like, 20 and he's never really left it."
He had earlier refused to apologise, saying: "I didn't realise weight was a racial issue," he said. "I just said he's a fat Indian man, which is true. He's a fat Indian."
The issue of racism Down Under is not a new one and has even caught the eye of Bollywood film makers. A movie about race relations between Indians and Australians hit the cinemas last week. The film called Crook - It's Good To Be Bad is billed as "an unflinching look at the burning issue of racism which has devastated the lives of thousands of young Indians, who went to Australia in search of a better life".
Coincidentally the main character in Crook is called Jai Dixit - an alternative spelling of Dikshit. ·
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