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Five teenagers arrested in Australia for attacks on Indians

By Natasha Chaku in Melbourne
Last updated on: May 29, 2009 16:45 IST
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The Australian police on Friday arrested five teenagers in connection with the recent spate of attacks on Indian students in Melbourne, and charged one of them with attempted murder.

A 17-year-old boy was charged with attempted murder after four Indian students, including Sravan Kumar, were brutally attacked by gatecrashers at a party in Melbourne on Saturday night, according to the police.

Kumar, 25, who was attacked with a screwdriver at the party, continued to remain critical and is still on life support.

Another 18-year-old was questioned in relation to the attack but has since been released.

The police also charged four minors in another case involving the brutal beating up of a 21-year-old Indian student, while he was on his way back home, on May 9.

The teenage boys are due to be produced before a juvenile court later today.

They have been charged with offences including affray, intentionally causing injury, recklessly causing injury and robbery, the police said in a statement.

Kumar's close friend Srinivas Korna, who is keeping a vigil at his hospital bedside, said he was still under intensive care but has started receiving utmost attention after media outrage over the attacks.

Korna said a special doctor has been assigned for Kumar.

Indian High Commissioner Sujatha Singh visited Kumar and was also scheduled to meet two other injured students in Melbourne and Canberra. She assured that Kumar's medical bills will be completely covered despite his lapsed insurance.

Singh said the Indian High Commission was all set to launch a section on its website listing 'do's and dont's' for aspiring students who wish to migrate to Australia for studies. She also asked the Indian student community to report any such incidents, however minor it may be, to the Consulates or the High Commission.

She said the Victorian government has listed measures to ensure safety, including increased police patrolling near railway stations especially late in the night, increasing the number of policemen in plain clothes. Singh also said she would be keeping a close watch on the police response to the issue, urging students, who were dissatisfied with the investigations, to contact her.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Ted Baillieu blamed the government for neglecting the issue for a long time, prompting the government to defend its handling of the attack.

"We've been raising these concerns for nearly three years and the problems got worse, not better. Scores of students have been attacked," Baillieu said.

Reacting to the statement, a spokesman for the Ministry for Skills and Workforce Participation that looks after international students, said Baillieu was "choosing to make political capital out of something he has not sought to research or understand".

"Attacks on anyone, including Indian and other international students, will not be tolerated and the full force of the law will come down on those ignorant thugs who think this acceptable behaviour," the spokesman said.

"We take this matter very seriously and far from ignoring the issue; we have already put in place strong measures to safeguard international students' welfare and the experience of living and studying in Victoria," he said.

He said the government will work with the police and the Indian community to ensure 'we remain a first choice destination" for students.

The state police continued to refute allegations that attacks on Indian students were racially motivated.

Deputy commissioner Kieran Walshe said there was no indication that a sharp rise in assaults and robberies against Indian students in Melbourne were a result of racial hatred.

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Natasha Chaku in Melbourne
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