The murder of Anuj Bidve in Manchester last week once again raised the niggling question whether the Indian student community abroad is safe. According to several students who have just returned from the UK, hate crimes are not new in that country.
Grief-stricken: Parents of Anuj Bidve, Subhash and Yogini, took a 1.45
am British Airways flight to London yesterday, said the deceased's
brother-in-law Rakesh Sonawane. File pic
Sharing her experience about hate crimes in the UK, Natasha D'souza, a student who just returned to India after two-years stint in Newcastle, said, "It's common to be addressed as a 'Paki' by some locals, particularly the 'skinheads' who think all Asians living in the UK are from Pakistan. Once in a while you'll meet an occasional skinhead yelling racist slurs at you. With the recession in a full effect in the UK, foreigners are being seen as a threat by some. Most of the people are friendly, though."
She added, "I remember when I was walking along with my African and Chinese friends on a deserted street, a gang of youth passed by us hurling racial abuses like Niggers and bloody Paki and throwing empty soda cans at us. It's very evident when laws have been enforced in the Post Study Work section where now the visa is available only for a year against two years earlier. Also submission of extra documentations is an effort to ensure that students outside the EU find it difficult to stay back post completion of their courses."
And Natasha is not a case in isolation. There are several other Indian students who have faced some sort of racial slur during their stay in the UK. Take the case of Maneck Bagli (27), a postgraduate student from London University who has just returned to India. "The discrimination will omnipresent. If you are traveling in a bus no locals will sit next to you. At times, before offering a job, the company's director would ask which community we belonged to or what is our nationality," Bagli said, adding he had returned for good.
He added, "I have found Americans friendlier than British and Australians. If I have to make a choice between European countries and America, I would definitely opt for the latter." But city-based foreign educational counselors don't quite buy the argument that racial crime is rampant in the UK. According to them, hate crimes are generally incidental and have nothing to do with students in particular.
The counselors also rubbished the arguments that the students should be briefed about bye-laws of foreign countries where they plan to purse higher studies. "The students rather prefer asking about opportunities, courses or university rankings rather than laws of the county concerned," says counselor from Edwise International Consultants. He, however, added that the number of students going to the UK or Australia is dormant.
"Earlier, seeking admission in UK universities was easier and there were lots of job opportunities. But now due to the financial downturn even the locals are facing job crisis, which is why such insecurity factors have crept into people's minds," said Gurpreet Singh, a counselor from Apex Consultants.
Singh has laid down rules for students to avoid instances of racism, particularly in the UK and Australia.
Hetal B, an education counselor, said racism was prevalent mostly in all European countries, including Germany and France. He stressed that the UK was not a case in isolation in this matter. "It all depends on the mindset of the people," she said.
"While traveling to another country one has to have an open mind and know about its local traditions and cultures. If you face racist remarks head to the nearest police station," she added.
'Is it a crime to be an Indian?'
As the unprovoked killing of Anuj Bidve in Manchester on December 26 sent shivers down the spine of Indian students studying abroad and their families back home, Khozem Ezzi, who graduated from Brighton, shares his harrowing experience with hate crime in the UK:
Hate crime is omnipresent in almost all European countries leave alone the UK. Having stayed in Brighton and Bradford for over two years, I have had my share of experiences dealing with the skinheads and their racial slurs.Once I was travelling in a near empty metro late in the evening in Brighton, two rowdy youth suddenly accosted me and yelled at me to hand over my laptop.
When I resisted and ignored them, the duo held me by the collar and abused me for 10 minutes till the train stopped at the next station. While abusing me, they kept talking over phone in a strong British accent, which I could barely understand. And when the train reached the next station, they suddenly jumped off the train, leaving me alone.
There was a Turkish couple in my compartment, but they were too shocked to react. Even though I approached the cops at the station, they paid no heed to my complaint. Instead, they broke into a guffaw over the matter, leaving me clueless whether it is a crime to be an Indian in the UK.