CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia's government and police angrily criticized on Friday a cartoon in an Indian newspaper that depicted police as racist Ku Klux Klan members following the fatal stabbing of an Indian student.
A cartoon in the Delhi Mail Today newspaper portrayed a person in a white Ku Klux Klan hood and wearing a Victoria state police badge against a black background and the words: "We are yet to ascertain the nature of the crime."
Accounting graduate Nitin Garg, 21, originally from the state of Punjab in northern India, was stabbed to death last Saturday night on his way to a job at a fast food outlet in Melbourne. "To say that our detectives are going slow on this, or for some reason trying to protect somebody, is incredibly offensive and wrong," said Greg Davies, secretary of the Victoria Police Association, the police officers' union.
Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the country's police were doing an outstanding investigating Garg's murder and a series of attacks on Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney drawing diplomatic protests and travel warnings from New Delhi.
"Any suggestion of the kind is deeply offensive and I would condemn the making of such comment," Gillard said. Indian media have labeled the attacks against Indian students in Australia as racist, but police and the government have insisted the attacks are purely criminal.
"The identity of the offender from the homicide in Footscray isn't even known at this stage, so we don't even know what nationality the offender is. To say it's a race-based crime is not only premature, but stupid," Davies told Australian radio in criticisms backed by Victoria Police Minister Bob Cameron.
The attacks have already damaged Australia's lucrative foreign student market, which is the country's third largest export earner, behind coal and iron ore, worth $13 billion Australian dollars ($11.93 billion) in 2007-08.
The number of Indian students wanting to study in Australia plummeted by 46 percent between July and October last year, according to Australian immigration department figures released this week. South Asians account for 19 percent of international students in Australia.
(Editing by Alex Richardson)
$1=1.090 Australian Dollars