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Another Indian taxi driver attacked near Melbourne

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 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 his four male passengers in the Victorian city of Ballarat, 110- kms west of here just before mid-night on Friday, police said.

The Ballart police constables dismissal of the attack as not racial came even as a top Victorian police official made a candid admission that there were “racists in Melbourne.”

In the latest assault, police in a 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 hands off the steering wheel, 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.

Police believe that the group were aged between 16 to 18. But dismissed the attack as “opportunistic”.

Police said they had a fair idea who the offenders were, saying “we believe they are known to us,” but denied it was a racial attack.

It was a second time in as many days that an Indian cab driver was targeted in the same town. Another 24-year-old Indian taxi-driver Satheesh Thatipamula was abused and assaulted by a passenger and his vehicle damaged on Thursday.

Paul John Brogden, 48-year-old local man was arrested, jailed for three months and fined 1500 Australian dollars by a judge, hours after he pleaded guilty of holding out a threat to kill the driver.

Repeated assaults on the 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, 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.

A partially-built gurdwara was also damaged in a blaze on Wednesday, and the police is probing the possibility of arsonists using Molotov cocktails in the incident.

Meanwhile, in a candid admission in the wake of a spate of attacks on Indians, a top Victorian police official today said there were racists in Melbourne and the issue needed to be discussed to tackle an upswing in street crime the brunt of which is being borne by Indians.

“Part of that (statement) is being absolutely upfront about every society having racism and racists,” Victorian Deputy Police Commissioner Ken Jones was quoted as saying by The Australian.

However, he said racism was not endemic in this city. “We have got murderers and rapists, but for a developed country, less than our share. We’ve got less than our share of racists, but we have got them.”

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