In yet another incident targeting Indians in Australia, a student-cum-cabbie was threatened with knife by his two passengers, even as the Australian police insisted that these cases were not racially-motivated.
The incident, the third against Indian cabbies in two days, occurred on Saturday when the driver, who is studying business administration in the Victorian city of Ballart, was called to Birdwood Avenue to pick up passengers, 'The Age' reported on Sunday.
It came shortly after another Indian taxi driver was abused and punched by his four passengers, one of whom spat on him, in Ballart, which is 110-km west of Melbourne. It also occurred just a day after a man was jailed for three months for abusing and threatening to kill an Indian taxi driver.
In the latest case "there were only two male offenders", Detective Senior Constable Highthorn said.
"And they also were skylarking around in the taxi and they fled from the taxi without paying. As they fled they produced a small knife."
The cabbie said he feared for his life but the attack would not stop him from driving taxis.
Police believed the two incidents against drivers from Ballart are linked. They it did not identify the two drivers.
Paul John Brogden, 48-year-old local man, was arrested, jailed for three months and fined 1500 Australian dollars by a judge on Thursday, hours after he pleaded guilty of holding out a threat to kill 24-year-old Indian taxi-driver Satheesh Thatipamula.
Detective Senior Constable Jeff Highthorn said he believed the attacks were opportunistic rather than racially motivated.
The cabbie, who was assaulted by four men, had picked up his passengers at Delacombe and was driving them to Birdwood Avenue. While he was driving, they engaged the handbrakes and played with the gear lever and one of them spat at him and verbally abused him, Highthorn said, adding one of the rear passengers punched him around the head a number of times.
Highthorn said the driver activated the alarm and the assault continued after three of the youths jumped out of the car and the driver gave chase. "They physically assaulted him, punching him around the upper body," he said.
"While they were doing that, one of the other offenders jumped into the driver's seat and drove the taxi about 500 metres down the road. A number of taxis and police, alerted by the alarm, soon arrived and the offenders fled. The driver's glasses had been smashed and he received bruising to his upper body and face. He was taken to Ballarat Health Services Base Hospital."
Repeated assaults on Indians have strained diplomatic ties between India and Australia.
Yesterday's incidents were the latest amid a string of attacks on Indians in Australia, with 21-year-old Nitin Garg, who was stabbed to death by unidentified assailants here, becoming the first victim of such assaults this year.Another Indian youth, Ranjodh Singh, was killed in New South Wales last month. Nearly 100 cases of attacks on Indians were reported in Australia in 2009 as against 17 incidents of assaults in 2008.