29 September 2021

Indian migrant speaks out after racist incidents leave him feeling unsafe at home

| Lottie Twyford
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Vikas Sharma

Vikas Sharma is a community broadcaster who is tired of being racially harassed. Photo: Supplied.

Do you feel safe in your home? Do you feel safe in your neighbourhood? Or do you feel attacked, vilified and unsafe because of the colour of your skin and the way you look?

These are the questions community broadcaster Vikas Sharma is asking after a recent spate of incidents of racism that have left himself and his young family feeling scared at home.

According to Vikas, what started off as a neighbourhood issue – including his home being the target of pranks such as ‘knock-and-runs’ throughout the day and in the middle of the night – quickly turned more sinister when he asked for the behaviour to stop.

“Some of the insults that were hurled at me I cannot even repeat and the door was slammed in my face,” he says. “I was called a Nazi and ‘a f–ing Arab.”

Vikas is visibly shaken and very emotional about these incidents.

“We’ve been at home doing the right thing [during COVID-19 lockdown], getting tested when we needed to, getting jabbed and disturbing no-one,” he says.

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What’s most concerning is that this isn’t the first time Vikas has experienced racism in Canberra.

He’s resigned to having to accept ignorant comments such as being asked ‘if he’s a cab driver’.

He says he is always having to respond to constant questions about himself and his ethnicity.

“People want to know if I’m an Arab or Moroccan, for example,” says Vikas.

He took to social media on Tuesday, 28 September, to share his story.

The video (below) shows a visibly emotional Vikas, and it doesn’t make for easy viewing.

The 'I' in this video is not just me, it is on behalf of all the people who have quietly suffered or are suffering and don't know or have courage to speak up. #SpeakUp #SayNoMore #RacismStillExists #Respect #diversityandinclusion #inclusion #community #communitysupport #radio #voice #SayNoToDiscrimination #multicultural

Posted by ACT Desi on Tuesday, September 28, 2021

“Do I not have a right to live in my own house in peace?” he asks.

Vikas asked whether it is wrong for him to be part of the community, to work to create a better life for himself and his family, to own his own home, to pay taxes and strata fees.

He’s also critical of the fact that in recent weeks, migrants from different cultures have been praised as those who are standing up and helping the community in times of need.

“Do we [migrants] not deserve respect all the time?” asks Vikas.

“These are questions I have asked and I will not leave these topics. I’ve taken this up for people who cannot speak for themselves and I won’t be silent.”

Vikas is calling out what he describes as a system in which respect for migrants is conditional.

“If we are in a doctor’s or nurse’s uniform or visibly helping people, we are respected, but if not, we get harassed,” he says.

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“When people look different, they get called names for it. It has to stop.”

Vikas is concerned he isn’t aware of any resources and support available for people who experience racism.

He tried to contact ACT Policing but isn’t sure any action has or will be taken.

But Vikas says the real reason he made the video was not to specifically share his own experience, but to reach out to other people who may have experienced something similar.

A separate Tweet from Vikas on the same issue came to the attention of Canberra Liberals MLA Giulia Jones who re-shared it alongside the message that racism is never OK.

They have asked anyone who has experienced racist attacks since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown to contact Giulia Jones or Vikas.

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Capital Retro2:23 pm 04 Oct 21

The bullies were all probably jealous of you because your dad had a Sako .22 Hornet.

I can tell you from personal experience that the worst bullying – and I mean the real version, not the wimpy one used today – was perpetuated against kids with red hair. The nicest name we had was “tomato blondes” but never the current UK terminology of “gingers”.

I started at a new primary school the same day as a German kid named Peter Hoffman – he was wearing Lederhosen so he was immediately badge named as “Adolph”. Peter and I were pariahs but we became good mates and stood up for each other. It prepared us well for real life later.

They are unevolved minds vikas. You did the right thing.
And, I am surprised to see people pointing out mistakes in other culture at this time –wrong is wrong, no matter where it happens. Sometimes truth is bitter, one should have guts to digest it. It reveals their element of hatred.

They are unevolved minds vikas. You did the right thing. And I am surprised to see people pointing out mistakes in other culture at this time – it reveals their element of hatred.

Elizabeth Ann Thurbon said
“I thought Canberrans were more sophisticated than this ?”

No – Canberrans only think they are…

Capital Retro5:33 pm 30 Sep 21

So, why is he smiling?

At the risk of not being politically correct, India is one of the most racist countries in the world. I know a Christian Indian who comes from an area where they mainly live with Muslims for safety (True) because of the discrimination he faces. At Uni in Delhi he pretended to be Hindu so he would pass.

Out here he met a nice Indian girl who when her parents found out where he was from, the mother threatened to kill herself if she kept seeing him.

Now I am a white old male heterosexual, supposably the racist one whose partner is Asian and the comments I get in her country when we are together is far worse and common than what she has ever experienced in Oz. I know its no popular in these current times to point any of this out, but sadly its the truth.

Capital Retro10:11 am 01 Oct 21

Yes, Elf. The caste system is still alive and ugly in the sub continent.

I have been subject to racist remarks in several overseas countries – it’s mostly superficial but threatening if you wander into the wrong part of the city.

In Germany where I used to go annually, the established German population were always making racist remarks about the Turkish migrants who were doing all the crap jobs (sound familiar to everywhere else?) including taxi driving. Whenever I caught a taxi the Turkish driver noted that I spoke English and asked where I was from. When I said Australia they “lit up” saying they had relatives that had migrated there and they loved Australia where the people were very welcoming.

I note you are self-declared “white old male heterosexual” Elf, so you would be aware of the worst form of discrimination in Australia namely ageism which has no racial or cultural boundaries.

Racism is a human condition & is found everywhere. In 30 years in Canberra I have seen little evidence of any racism.
Maybe Vikas is unlucky & lives in a neighbourhood full of a-holes. Maybe everybody in that particular neighbourhood cops it.

ChrisinTurner2:45 pm 30 Sep 21

Unfortunately the ACT has the lowest number of front-line police officers per capita in the nation. However we do have a tram financial black-hole.

So what exactly happened to him?
In a five minute long video whinge he gives absolutely no examples or details of what he is complaining about, or anything that amounts to racism or discrimination.
Isolated incidents of abuse can happen in all communities and to anyone.
As he would well know, the level of racism, ethnic, political, social, gender and religious intolerance is far worse in India than in Australia.
Indians have settled well in Australia and there are many examples of successful Indian migrants in the Australian community.
Firstly look to yourself for the cause of your problems before blaming others. I reject the notion of systemic racism and discrimination in Canberra 2021.

So sorry that you and your family have had this experience Vikas. Please know that the racist people you are dealing with are in the minority- most Australians are proud of our multicultural and welcoming approach. Sending you virtual best wishes and strength.

I am sorry your family is going through this and I agree with Hrvoje his comment is spot on.

Ross Buchanan Young10:30 am 30 Sep 21

Saddened to hear of your experience. Important that the community gets to know about these incidents, and that our schools in particular continue to focus our kids on tolerance and respect

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