“Is there a Mahatma in Melbourne today, mate?”

M.K. VIDYARANYA writes: Whites, thy name is Apartheid.

Wherever there are whites there is apartheid, it seems. Even in this 21st century.

Across the world, Indians—students, doctors, IT professionals, mechanics—give so much to the country where they have migrated, be it in Europe, America, Australia or Africa. They mingle well, abide by the laws, and have become valued members of the community they have settled in.

And this is what they get in return?

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106 years ago, in white-ruled South Africa, a young Indian found himself in the same situation that young Indian students find themselves in Australia.

The magistrate of the Durban court where the tall gangling man practiced did not take to him as he dressed differently and wore a turban  in the court hall.

Little seems to have changed as the events in Australia in the past week show.

When the magistrate ordered Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to remove his head-dress, he refused and walked out of the court. But he did not buckle in. Gandhi remained in South Africa for a further 20 years, suffering imprisonment many times, but the turban stayed with him  until he left in 1914.

Gandhi did not let the humiliation go uncontested. Inspired by Tolstoy, Christ and Theorau, He began a policy of passive resistance to, and non-cooperation with, the South African authorities. He called it Satyagraha.

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What we are seeing in Australia, where Indians are being mercilessly attacked, is the offshoot of the remnants of the White Australian policy practiced by them for centuries.

And what we need is a Gandhi who will stand up and not give in.

Australia abolished the ‘White Australia’ policy in 1966. It took further steps in 1973 to remove race as a factor in its immigration policies. Australian law has moved forward, the people still have not.

At least some of them.

Australia’s current migration programme allows people from any country to apply to migrate to Australia, regardless of their ethnicity, culture, religion or language, provided that they meet the criteria set out in law.

It is disturbing to note that even in this 21st century some vested interests in Australia are practising the ‘White Australian Policy’. It is high time the Australian government dealt with the problem with an iron hand before it takes an ugly turn.

But immigrants need an influential person to take up the role Mahatma Gandhi took in South Africa and start a peaceful Satyagraha to achieve the process of equality to all.

Not just for Indians, but for all immigrants down under.

The external affairs minister S.M. Krishna should immediately fly to Australia to make an on-the-spot assessment of the situation arising out of the attack on Indians, hold talks with the Austrlian government, and reassure the Indian community of the steps being taken by the government to ensure their wellbeing and safety.