The spate of high-profile violent attacks on Indian students studying in Australia has been the source of an intense outpouring of public indignation in India.
Popular reaction to the attacks, mainly channelized through the trigger-happy Indian electronic media, have accused Australia of racism and the government of not doing enough to seriously address it. The Australian government have, while acknowledging the problem, been at pains to point to the fact that its cities are much less crime prone than many Indian cities.
Are the attacks racially motivated and has it assumed epidemic proportions? The answer probably lies in examining records and using statistical techniques, specifically Bayesian probability, to tease out the conclusions. In other words, we need to show that among those living in the same areas, Indian students experience a statistically significant higher probability of facing a violent attack than a normal Australian.
Since Indians are the largest foreign student community and since many of them work outside to finance their studies, it is natural to expect them to be the target of racial attacks. More so since they live on the outskirts and suburbs and the recession has adversely affected employment opportunities in Australia. However, the attacks on Indian students can be classified as racist and disproportionately large only if
1. The share of attacks on Indians is statistically higher than those on Australians living in similar suburban areas, and
2. The share of attacks on Indian students is higher than those on other Indians
Though I could not get statistics about these from Google, reasonable approximations can be made with some simplifying assumptions. Wikipedia informs that there are 97000 Indian students in Australia, and Australian population in 2006 was 19,855,288. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that 255 people were murdered in Australia in 2007, or a rate of one murder for every 77,863 people. Assuming the same rate, one would expect just one (1.25 to be exact) murder crime among the 97000 Indian students in Australia!
Working backwards, the estimated more than 500 violent suspected/alleged racial attacks on Indian students in Australia in 2008 means that one in 200 students (or 500 victims per 100,000 people) are likely to face a violent attack. Extrapolating this for the entire Australian population, there should have been 1,02,347 incidents of violent criminal attacks in Australia!
Now take a look at offical Australian crime stats for 2008 - 1.2 murders, 1.1 attempted murders, 3.7 kidnapping and abduction victims, per 100,000 persons, 77.2 robbery victims, and 2 blackmail victims each per 100,000 persons. Surely, 500 victims of violent attacks per 100,000, among Indian students is a statistically significant aberration as to merit some explanation that goes beyond commonplace urban crimes.