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Another Indian Taxi Driver Attacked In Australia

PTI 20 Jan 2010, 12:32:27 IST

An Indian cabbie received facial injuries after being assaulted by a man and a woman passenger, prompting police to release images of the couple involved in the latest in a slew of attacks on the community in Australia.

The incident, which occurred in Melbourne's north, was the fifth such attack on Indian cabbies within a week.

The 25-year-old driver told police he called an ambulance and was treated for facial injuries at the Northern Hospital after the assault, which took place on Saturday. However, police came out with a statement on it only last night.

The cabbie had stopped at the Summerhill Hotel in Reservoir, where five people were asking for a ride. He refused to carry them all, because of the car's legal capacity and instead only picked up a man and a woman from the group.

Police said the woman became angry at the driver for refusing to take her friends with them. The man then punched him as he pulled over on Plenty Road and continued to assault him as the couple climbed out of the cab.

Police have asked witnesses to come forward to help them catch those who bashed the driver. They also released images of the couple involved in the attack.

However, police said there is no evidence that the attack was racially motivated.

The incident followed four such attacks on Indian cabbies in Australia last week, including in Geelong city and Ballart.

Meanwhile, rising football star Michael Hurley, who allegedly attacked an Indian cabbie in September last year, has been granted an adjournment for a court hearing.

Hurley, 19, who did not appear at Melbourne court today, faces five charges of recklessly causing injury, unlawful assault, assault by kicking, failing to pay for a taxi and public drunkenness.

Nearly 100 cases of attacks on Indians, mostly students, were reported in Australia in 2009 as against 17 incidents of assaults in 2008.

Nitin Garg, a 21-year-old accounting graduate who was stabbed to death by unidentified assailants here, became the first victim of such assaults this year.

Reacting to the attacks, Victoria's top cop, Chief Commissioner Simon Overland, said there is a racist element to some of these assaults on Indians.

"There is no question, regardless of the motives, Indian students have to a degree been targeted in robberies and that is not okay," he was quoted as saying by the media. "We recognised this problem a long time before it hit the public."

"We have known for two years that there has been this issue and we have been working away, at a number of levels around engaging with students, trying to make them understand the risks and how they keep themselves safe."

Overland said some of the attacks were racist. "I have said from day one undoubtedly some of these attacks have a racist motive or there is racist elements to these attacks," he said.

Asking Australia to confront 'racism', the country's former defence chief has said the attacks against Indians were a "major problem" and their nature made it easy to conclude that they were racially-motivated.

General Peter Cosgrove told 'The Age' that the number of incidents against Indians seemed "too many to be coincidences".

"Attacks recently by groups of people on individuals look like a profiling approach to people from the sub-continent," he said. "Rather than say 'nothing to worry about', I'd rather look more closely. If you didn't suspect a racial strand you'd be mad." PTI