What can politicians do about crimes against Indian students?

Sunday’s protest by Indian students certainly drew plenty of attention, with Rudd and Turnbull both making statements on the issue in Parliament the following day. That’s what Age online subeditor Sam Varghese, of ‘distinctly sub-continental’ appearance, had called for on the paper’s opinion page:

My biggest fear is that, if nothing is done to stop this scourge, if the authorities do not stand up and shout with one voice, then the violence will start to bear fruit. (emphasis added)

Though it is sensible for political leaders to make reassuring statements when a group in the community is feeling anxious, will this affect the underlying problem? I seriously doubt that this would be the case. Despite decades of denunciation, a smallish minority in the community are still self-confessed racists, and a much larger group will admit to some prejudice.

Add to this that the people responsible for these attacks are flouting not just widely-held norms of tolerance but near universally-held norms and tough laws (passed by politicians) against assault, and we are clearly dealing with a group of people with little regard for the moral or legal authority of politicians.

Certainly the norms in favour of tolerance are worth reinforcing as a general principle, but they are not the solution to this particular problem, which is a sub-set of a much larger law and order problem. While no doubt there are things the Indian students can do to reduce the risks they face, ultimately additional policing and punishment of offenders will be needed to return crimes against Indian students to isolated incidents.