Australians protest with 'vindaloo against violence'

MELBOURNE: Politicians, police and thousands of ordinary Australians sat down at Indian restaurants across the nation today for “Vindaloo Against Violence”, a mass dining protest against racial attacks.

More than 17,000 people registered to participate in the grassroots campaign, which went viral — and global — from humble beginnings as a 100-person event on social networking site Facebook.

Organiser Mia Northrop, 35, said she’d received event notifications from as far afield as Tajikistan, with people set to down a curry in Tokyo, Amsterdam, New York and Stockholm in solidarity with the cause.

“I’m really thrilled that

this got the support that it did, there’s no way that I could have imagined it would end up to be this big,” Northrop, a digital media designer, told AFP.

“I’m really happy that it meant so much to so many people,” she added, remarking that feedback had been “phenomenally positive”. The campaign was designed to be a show of support for Australia’s 450,000-strong Indian community in the wake of a series of attacks against Indian students. At least 400 Indian restaurants across Australia were taking part and Melbourne’s curry-courier service Tiffins was forced to close its website after experiencing its busiest day on record.

“It is so busy we have four vans helping our fleet of five bikes to make 1,000 deliveries during lunch today,” said owner Mikhil Kotak.

In Northrop’s home town of Melbourne, where most of the recent violence against Indians took place, police and the state’s premier, John Brumby, dined out in support. Brumby sat down to lunch with a group of Indian students at a city cafe and the state’s parliament changed its menu to Indian fare in honour of the day.

Lawmakers sweated through a lunchtime eating contest in the northern state of Queensland, where there was also a curry-only menu in the parliamentary cafeteria. “Question time is hotter than this!” one MP jeered as the deputy premier, Paul

Lucas, struggled through a beef vindaloo.

Attacks against Indians, including beatings and

robberies, have been on the rise in Australia, threatening to damage diplomatic ties and the country’s education system, which brings in 15.4 billion US dollars from abroad each year.

Media outrage in India has been stoked by the unsolved murder of 21-year-old Punjabi student Nitin Garg in Melbourne last month.

Cricket legend Shane Warne, who plays in the Indian Premier League and

has been recruited to

help improve Australia’s image in India, said he supported the campaign but scheduling meant he could not join the events.

Warne, who hails from Victoria, of which Melbourne is the state capital, said he would do all he could to help improve ties, adding that the passion for cricket on the subcontinent would help.

“Being a Victorian and being in India for the last 15, 20 years and now being involved in the IPL, I can see both sides,” he said.