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Indian Taxi Driver Thrashed In Melbourne

PTI 16 Jan 2010, 20:34:18 IST

In the second attack in two days on Indians in Australia, a 25-year-old taxi driver was abused and punched by his passengers, one of whom spat on him, an assault described as "opportunistic" and "not racially motivated" by police.

In another incident, three Indians were among a group of six South Asians who were denied entry by a bar here in what is being described by them as "a case of racism".  The taxi driver, who was not identified, had 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 here just before mid-night last-night, police said. 

The Ballarat police constables dismissal of the attack on the taxi driver 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 drivers hand from 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. 

Australian 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.  The police believe that the group were aged between 16 to 18. But dismissed the attack as "opportunistic". 

In the case of the three Indians, who were part of a South Asian group denied entry to a Melbourne bar, the youths described it as "a case of racism".  "We had gone to the bar to throw a farewell party for one of our friends, Abhishek Aggarwal, who is about to leave for India" on Wednesday, said Sujan Pathak, a Nepalese citizen who was part of the group.

However, he said the youths, all in their mid-20s, were turned away by the Melbourne Centre Lion Hotel's bar without any explanation. The hotel said it reserved the right of allowing guests and owed no explanation to those it turns away.  

The group of friends -- three Indians and three Nepalese --  just wanted to know the reason for this and contacted police who refused to help them on the issue, Pathak told PTI  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 in an assault on Thursday. PTI