Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site

Keeping vigil for slain Indian student

Candlelight vigilThey came to stop the violence. Four, maybe five of them, in dark hooded jackets and pale, worn jeans. Hovering uncertainly in the car park. Shadow-like. Haunted.

Wrongly, we assumed they had come to join us. It was 9.30pm, and we were gathered outside the place to which he had come, bleeding, begging for help. We had initiated this gathering: 'Bring a flower. Bring a candle. Spread the word. Spread the word.' And so with short notice we had gathered. With short notice, the word had spread.

Now, these newcomers. It was 'the media', angling for a statement, that had alerted them: 'How do you feel about the protests planned for outside Hungry Jack's tonight?' Not wishing for violence to answer violence, the small group of Indian students, who introduced themselves as the housemates and friends of Nitin Garg, had come to stop us.

Greg was the first to respond, with a pastor's face, wise to the inadequacy of words at times like these. Then Xingi, or was it Soph, with long stalks of white roses. Candles.

On the mutual ground of the restaurant car park we explained that we were simply people from the community. Christians, many of us. Concerned. Compelled. Our desire, like theirs, was for the violence to end. We asked them to join us.

A woman stood beside them as we waited for more people to gather. Students. Church people. Hungry Jack's workers. Local residents bearing straggly, home-grown flowers and arriving on bikes. Then we commenced the silent procession through Cruickshank Park, to mark the final steps Nitin took. We asked his friends to lead us.

Five days after Nitin's murder, the question of whether or not this violence was racially motivated rages on. People rush to defend Australia's reputation. Other stabbings, other murders, against all races of people, are cited. The Indian caste system is mentioned more than once.

Frantic pointing elsewhere. Everywhere except here.

Here at the grassroots, where, in the trembling, personal words of mourners, in the awkward shuffling of police officers' feet, in the slow weaving line of candles and the silent laying of flowers, people do care. Where Australians do grieve with the family of Nitin Garg.

Where, also, Indian students, away from friends and family, work grave yard shifts for minimum wages. Where they live poorly, in suburbs where rent is low, and catch public transport to work at night. Where one of their friends was stabbed on his way to work at Hungry Jack's.

Where together we gathered, joined in our desire to stop the violence.

Cara MunroCara Munro organised a candle-lit prayer vigil on 4 January at the suburban Melbourne site of the murder of Inidan student Nitin Garg. Cara is a registered nurse and passionate supporter of interfaith dialogue. Her essay 'Aurin' was awarded First Prize in the 2009 Margaret Dooley Awards.

Topic tags: cara munro, candle light vigil, footscray, nitan garg, hungry jack's



submit a comment

Existing comments

This is a lovely community gesture to share the pain. The gov't must stop emphasizing 'it is not a racial attack', or giving statistics of violence in Indian cities. Will we look at New York next? How will Australian media react if an Australian citizen was murdered in an Indian city? Stop comparing. instead, focus attention on providing security where it is needed.Address the issues of underlying violence. To those Australians who have given a humane face to this tragedy, thank you.

Surjeet Dhanji | 06 January 2010  

Communal violence, whether of an ethnic or religious nature, is endemic in India. A few years ago an Australian Christian missionary and his sons were burned to death by a frenzied mob. Australians remained calm and did not take to making wild claims about Indian society. We simply do not know at this stage whether the attack on Mr Garg was racially motivated or not. There have recently been killings of German and British backpackers in this country. Were those crimes inspired by national prejudice? The fact is that people, including Australians, are sometimes the victims of criminals in other countries. The Indian media should take a cold shower.

Sylvester | 06 January 2010  

Sylvester you know what irks Indians the most?
It's not the murder but the defensive attitude that some Australians have shown.

FYI the criminals who killed the priests in India have been given capital punishment.

In Australia after so many incidents NONE have been caught. It would be nice if we discuss these issues once your police is catches the perpetrators.

That was very thoughtful of you Cara Munro. Wish other Aussies had the same feelings and compassion.

Saurabh | 06 January 2010  

Congratulations, Carla, on organising the vigil; a most appropriate spiritual gesture to mark this tragedy. But why even hint at "people rush to defend Australia's reputation" in the same article? A clear and appropriate spiritual initiative should not be sullied by even hinting at the racism issue. Unless of course you can prove that the attack was racially motivated!

Peter Kelaher | 06 January 2010  

When are we catholics going to stop pretending not to hear what Tony Abbott is saying weekly, if not daily. When people who have left everyhing they own and everything they know in order to save their lives and when they get close to Australia Tony Abbott wants us to send them back to die: send the men back to die, send the women back to die, send the children back to die. Why do we continue to treat Mr Abbott as a bone fide member of our Christian community?

Jim Jones | 07 January 2010  

Thank you for the very nice gesture. This gives a ray of hope for the whole of Australia. An individual can make a positive gesture, that has national and international impact.

On the discussion thread...

I hope people stop trying to convert illiterate poor in any part of the world by enticing with rewards of money, jobs, and what not that missionaries are know to indulge in. India has millions of Christians and its own missionaries. We don't need any Australians to do that. Similarly, Indian students should stop going to Australia to learn about cooking, fixing cars or doing facials. We can teach those in India, at less cost and no risk of being killed simply because you are Indian and the jobless in Australia look upon you as a threat to their minimum wage jobs. Indians students should also look at going to much safer countries (UK, US, Canada and other European ones) if they just feel like have a foreign training in their resume. Its so strange that Australian Police get so defensive, when Indians get attacked or killed(in this case) to call it a racially motivated one, despite the fact that in most attacks, the students have been subject to racial slurs! Go figure. Smart ass Aussie attitude. It will come back to haunt them. Now the entire world knows about racism in Australia. You can't mask it by pointing fingers at others. More importantly you can't fix it by the same token.

Raj712 | 07 January 2010  

Not being defensive, Saurabh - just wanting to keep things in perspective while we wait for the truth to come out about the Garg murder. I am pleased to learn that the killers of the Australian missionary and his children have been brought to justice. Unfortunately, that incident was not isolated. Christians, both local people and foreign missionaries, are frequently the targets of violence and prejudice in India. A few months ago there was a terrible wave of violence in which scores of people died and many churches and dwellings destroyed. That kind of thing never happens in Australia. I suggest the Indian media look at its own back yard before pointing the finger at Australia about an incident, the facts of which are still unclear.

Sylvester | 07 January 2010  

Just wondering, needing more info before making a comment, what is the degree of assaults against Indian students/workers in other countries of the world?

Fr Mick Mac Andrew Bombala-Delegate NSW | 08 January 2010  

Cara, A big thank you. News of your efforts gave me real hope.

Saurabh: It’s not at all about racism. Like India, Australia is occupied by good and bad people. Sadly it’s the bad ones who have the most impact; leaving the rest of us to mourn our losses.

There are many unsolved crimes in Australia, and my own experience with the prison system here has taught me that there are just as many people outside who should be inside; as there are people inside who should be outside. It is a very flawed system, but really it is all we have. Talk to any policeman or woman and you will realise they are often depressed about the things they see everyday.

Death sentences were passed in September 2003 for the murder of Graham Staines in spite of his wife’s appeal for clemency. Twelve others were given life imprisonment. The death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment in May 2005 by the Orissa High Court, who also acquitted the other appellants. . . . no system is perfect. But they are all we have. I agree with you in that we need more people like Cara.

Paul Brockhoff | 08 January 2010  

This is beautiful. . .a silent protest at the slain Nitin's senseless, brutal stabbing. I weep tears for the victims of these un-Australian crimes. I carry the shame every day now. I pray Lord make us a more tolerant, accepting & understanding people - and Lord, start with me!

Murray | 08 January 2010  

Over a week ago an Indian was set alight in Melbourne. Apparently the Victorian police have concluded that his statement "does not add up". The surest sign of a law enforcement regime on the back foot is when the apparent victims become the suspects. Also, the Australian media has gone quiet on this one. No wonder, if true its reminiscent of the KKK in the American Deep South a century ago. We all know a multi-billion industry at stake here. What is going on?

mark berthold | 15 January 2010  


We are doing this article at school, and was wondering, what exactly is the article about? And what exactly is it saying?

Woody21 | 01 March 2010  


I have read a number of your articles and I moved by each one of these.

If we are considering Tony Abbott we must regard him as the epitome of a racist and he caters to that streak of Australians who are still steeped in the essence of racism "the white Australia" policy that will take more than a generation to get rid of.

I am Australian and I am not proud to called one at many times.

We need to ask simply "Who is our neighbour?"

Michael | 04 October 2010  

Similar Articles

Prince encounters 'unfinished business' of Indigenous history

  • Brian McCoy
  • 24 January 2010

Australia Day remindes us of stories of separation within our country, such as the stories of the Stolen Generations. Separation from a parent is something Prince William understands. 'Did your mummy die?' a six-year old asked him during his visit last week.


What we have lost

  • Andrew Hamilton
  • 03 December 2010

So Australia has lost its bid to host the World Cup. In a single night the Holy Grail of the World Cup was transmuted to tin, the Light on the Hill of 2022 was snuffed out, the Crystal Sea that would convey worshipful hordes to Australia turned to seaweed.