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

Lottie Twyford 29 September 2021 69
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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69 Responses to Indian migrant speaks out after racist incidents leave him feeling unsafe at home
Capital Retro Capital Retro 2:23 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.

Carita Konrad Carita Konrad 3:26 pm 03 Oct 21

So sad that this is happening to you and your family, but I don’t think this is anything new.

My family migrated here in the early 1970s from Finland and I must admit that we experienced discrimination and I can recall being bullied at my high school by other students because I looked and sounded different. I had very little English when I started at school. I found that the ones that bullied me were not from very educated backgrounds. Little seems to have changed in the 50 years my family and I have been here.

It is not acceptable to be discriminated against, it’s a free country and you deserve every respect that any other person in our community deserves.

Maybe lobbying our members of parliament would be something you could do, but I think we need to start educating children already in pre-school about respect and inclusion.

    Vikas Sharma Vikas Sharma 12:09 pm 04 Oct 21

    Carita Konrad Need like minded people coming together. I have some thoughts and will be coming back with some sort of initiative to raise awareness and encourage people to speak up. Need all the support possible. Can I reach out to you?

    Carita Konrad Carita Konrad 12:50 pm 04 Oct 21

    Vikas Sharma yes sure you can. 🥰

Valerie Barbara Sharpe Valerie Barbara Sharpe 6:45 am 03 Oct 21

This did happen in Australia in the sixties. I came to Australia to a small north coast town to the end of primary school. I was bullied big time by the kids and particularly the teacher who welcomed me to the school by caning me

My mother was africaans and my father Russian

I remember that the kids didn’t wear shoes to school but mum made sure I had shoes on and my hair done. I looked and dressed and spoke differently

That year was a terrible memory. However my mother went and spoke to

The teacher who never touched me again

He was appalling

Things changed when I went to Kempsey high school. I was accepted fully- my grades improved to the stage of doing really well- I had lots of friends

Then we moved to leeton and I was fully accepted there too but there was quite a bit of religious “warfare” between the Catholics and other religions!!!

Interesting days

I have been called a foreigner in the last five years but I worked at a multi lingual school and certainly fitted there!

    Vikas Sharma Vikas Sharma 12:04 pm 04 Oct 21

    Valerie Barbara Sharpe Sorry to hear your story. If not anything else, we all should just keep sharing our stories in the main media or social media. After seeing the enormous support from the community since the time I have called it out. It is something that gives me a bit of hope. However, I do understand others hesitation, hopelessness and giving up on the topic as this has been going on for ages..

    Valerie Barbara Sharpe Valerie Barbara Sharpe 7:24 pm 04 Oct 21

    Vikas Sharma - thanks Vikas

    I also remember the problem with dads qualifications not being recognised!

Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 11:16 pm 02 Oct 21

I'm sorry Vikas has had to put up with that abuse. Canberra has a different population from when I was young. I can't imagine that happening then.

    Vikas Sharma Vikas Sharma 12:07 am 03 Oct 21

    Robyn Holder Thank you for your kind words. I wonder the level of diversity then and we would call it #multicultural as we proudly do now? Please share some thoughts, it would be interesting to know first hand 🙏

    Jones Walmington On-Sea Jones Walmington On-Sea 1:23 pm 04 Oct 21

    Vikas Sharma I witnessed far worse actual racism and bigotry "back then", than I have in more recent times. Australia has never really had a class system until it started to rear its ugly head in the 1980s. Racism and bigotry can be part of social and economic change, which we are witnessing now. There is also a significant increase in the population from sub-continent Asia, so these people can be an easy target. Racist behaviour can manifest from frustration within the local population regarding social change and migrants can and are, an easy target. Overall, normal, working class Australians are not racist, but can be misguided at times.

Gail D Gillin Gail D Gillin 8:20 am 02 Oct 21

Vikas, l am sorry this has happened to you and your family. I believe ACT Police should intervene before it escalates into property damage or physical attacks. I have friends of other ethnicities and l know they have been subject to racism too. In the street, in their businesses, in their homes, and even in hospital. The later l found especially repugnant. Perhaps try raising the issue with politicians, and the Humans Rights Commission. Happy to share some of the stories privately but not my stories to put in a public forum. We all must stand up against this bullying behaviour. Best of luck.

N P N P 10:54 am 01 Oct 21

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.

N P N P 10:47 am 01 Oct 21

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.

jwinston jwinston 7:46 am 01 Oct 21

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

No – Canberrans only think they are…

Carol Chapman Carol Chapman 11:14 pm 30 Sep 21

So sorry .

Dheeraj Sharma Dheeraj Sharma 7:52 pm 30 Sep 21

This is a sad situation to see someone from your own country facing this hardship. Here is one question for all, we hate being discriminated by others but are we less to discriminate others?

Caste, race, colour, income, body, name, etcetera.

I think this is the time when we all should stand together and stop this discrimination and stop being a part of it. Great work!!

Where ever or whenever you see it stop it. I have been to a club where "two kids" tried to bully one of my friend but out of my surprise one kid stood up and bashed those kids. I said kids cuz you can't say anything to them as they are protected by law and they don't miss a chance to abuse it.

So we have all sort of human in this multicultural country "our country".

"Stay strong stay safe".

Benazir Badsha Zaidi Benazir Badsha Zaidi 7:04 pm 30 Sep 21

I have been in Canberra for 6 years now and never faced any racial discrimination of any sort so far and I hope I don't. Surprisingly the only experience I had was with my own kind, fellow Indian who moved and sat few seats away from me on finding out that I was a Muslim. It was shocking and unbelievable to say the least.

    Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 7:52 pm 30 Sep 21

    Benazir Badsha Zaidi yep, sadly discrimination includes not just race but religion etc

    Hope humans can become better people...still facing this in the 21st century. obviously nothing has been learnt since mankind began :(

    Vikas Sharma Vikas Sharma 8:02 pm 30 Sep 21

    Benazir Badsha Zaidi I am sorry to hear this. For us sometimes it is double edged sword. It makes my heart bleed as the things we wish to leave behind and come here follow us here too. So when people say it happen more there, it does not mean if it happens here too, it's okay. We voiced against it there and shall voice against if it happens here too.

Saab InOz Saab InOz 6:33 pm 30 Sep 21

Which suburb? Canberra is supposed to be educated people. Imagine the life of asians in queensland or perth.

    Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 7:47 pm 30 Sep 21

    Saab InOz sadly it's some humanity - not just CBR - but global

    Education or 'IQ" has little to do with ignorance, arrogance or ‘common sense’ and compassion

Margaret Nancarrow Margaret Nancarrow 5:46 pm 30 Sep 21

I'm so sorry that happened to you Vikas.

Ari LM Ari LM 5:46 pm 30 Sep 21

Disgusting behaviour!!! So sorry to hear this happened to you..

Capital Retro Capital Retro 5:33 pm 30 Sep 21

So, why is he smiling?

Adeel Raza Adeel Raza 5:25 pm 30 Sep 21

I am sorry about your experience.

I m in Canberra/Australia for last more than 3 years. I am from Pakistan.

But I always find beautiful people around me.

Elf Elf 5:19 pm 30 Sep 21

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 Retro Capital Retro 10:11 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.

Elizabeth Ann Thurbon Elizabeth Ann Thurbon 5:12 pm 30 Sep 21

I thought Canberrans were more sophisticated than this 😢

    Warwick Alsop Warwick Alsop 6:33 pm 30 Sep 21

    Elizabeth Ann Thurbon Im not sure you can paint us all with the same brush as a few doorknocking kids and a bogan neighbour...

    Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 7:44 pm 30 Sep 21

    Elizabeth Ann Thurbon sadly it's some humanity - not just CBR - but global :(

Jones Walmington On-Sea Jones Walmington On-Sea 5:03 pm 30 Sep 21

Now that all the British are only getting as far as the Iberian Peninsula, maybe the people from the Sub-Continent are the new POMS? Don't forget, it's a term of endearment!

Poonam Singh Poonam Singh 4:43 pm 30 Sep 21

Great work vikas

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