1 Jun 2009

Melbourne street blockade over

11:25 am on 1 June 2009

Police have broken up a sit-in by several hundred Indian students who blockaded a major Melbourne intersection outside Flinders Street station overnight.

The ABC reports 18 students were detained on Sunday morning for breaching the peace. The others have disbanded and the intersection is open again to traffic.

The protest started on Saturday when thousands of Indian students held a protest in central Melbourne to express anger about recent violent attacks on Indian students.

Student Sravan Kumar Theerthala, 25, was stabbed in the stomach with a screwdriver last weekend and remains in hospital.

In an earlier incident, seven men bashed an Indian man, 21, travelling alone on a train.

Two students working as taxi drivers were assaulted last year.

The protest was organised by the Federation of Indian Students of Australia.

Concerns about violence against Indian students were raised by the Indian Prime Minister and the Indian High Commissioner to Australia last week.

Problems for education industry

There are thought to be about 90,000 Indian students studying at Australian universities.

The violence has made headlines across India and internationally - creating potential problems for Australia's $A15.5 billion education export market.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, education-related travel is Australia's biggest service export to India, valued at $A2 billion in 2007/08.

The BBC reports one of India's leading film stars, Amitabh Bachchan, has turned down an honorary degree from Queensland University of Technology, saying he could not accept the it under the current circumstances.