Big B turns down Oz honour

NEW DELHI: Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan has rejected an honorary doctorate from a Brisbane university to protest against a wave of attacks on Indian students in Australia.

"Under the prevailing circumstances I find it inappropriate at this juncture to accept this decoration," Bachchan said in a letter to the Queensland University of Technology posted on his blog Sunday.

"My conscience is profoundly unsettled at the moment," the letter said.

Bachchan, 66, known as "The Big B" in movie-mad India, had used his blog to request fan feedback on whether he should accept the degree -- awarded for his contribution to the world of entertainment.

He said he had been "overwhelmed" by the response.

A series of attacks on Indian students has unleashed a furious reaction in India and strained diplomatic ties with Australia.

Australian police have rejected claims that the attacks were racially motivated, saying the students were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

India has said it is "closely monitoring" the situation, while Australia's High Commissioner in New Delhi, John McCarthy, sought to defend his country's reputation Sunday and allay fears that foreign students were in danger.

"I would deny that we are a racist country. Australia is generally a safe country," he told the NDTV news channel.

Indians form the second-largest group of overseas students in Australia, and police estimate they make up 30 percent of robbery victims in Melbourne's western suburbs, where many of the students live.