Attacks on Indians in Australia continued unabated with yet another taxi driver being punched by his passengers, an assault described as 'opportunistic' and 'not racially motivated' by the police.
In the second such incident in as many days, the 25-year-old taxi driver suffered bruises on his body and swelling on the face after he was roughed up by four male passengers in the Victorian city of Ballarat, 110- kms west of Melbourne, on Friday night.
A police statement said, "The four became abusive towards the Indian driver while he was driving and started assaulting him, with one of the passengers in the rear seat even spitting on him."
The passengers attempted to force the vehicle to stop by pulling the hand-break and tried to force the driver's hand from the steering wheel, the police added. As the car pulled over, two of the four passengers tried to flee, with the Indian driver giving them a chase. However, the third passenger punched him to the ground.
The police believe that the passengers were aged between 16 to 18 years, but they dismissed the attack as 'opportunistic', not racial.
The police said they had a fair idea who the offenders were, saying "we believe they are known to us," but denied that it was a racial attack.
This is the second time in as many days that an Indian cab driver has been targeted in the same town. Taxi driver Satheesh Thatipamula, 24, was abused and assaulted by a passenger and his vehicle damaged in an assault on Thursday. Paul John Brogden, a 48-year-old local man, was arrested and jailed for three months by a judge, hours after he pleaded guilty of holding out a threat to kill the driver.
Repeated assaults on Indians have inflamed diplomatic tensions between India and Australia. This was the latest amid a string of attacks on Indians in Australia, mostly in Melbourne, with 21-year-old student Nitin Garg, who was stabbed to death by unidentified assailants in Melbourne, becoming the first victim of such assaults this year.
Another Indian youth, Ranjodh Singh, was killed in New South Wales in December. Nearly 100 cases of attacks on Indians were reported in Australia in 2009 as against 17 incidents of assaults in 2008.