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Desi students face attacks in Melbourne

Kamalpreet Singh Khangura describes in a matter-of-fact way how he was attacked not once, but twice in Melbourne in the past eight months. Both times, this final semester accounting and financial management student, avoided being robbed or injured. David McMahon reports.

india Updated: Mar 29, 2009 00:36 IST
David McMahon

Kamalpreet Singh Khangura describes in a matter-of-fact way how he was attacked not once, but twice in Melbourne in the past eight months. Both times, this final semester accounting and financial management student, avoided being robbed or injured.

The first time, he was in a car in late August last year. At least four people started banging on the car’s rear window at a traffic intersection. He managed to escape by locking himself in until he got the first opportunity to drive away. The second time was in December.

He was with a friend when three strangers, all in their early 20s, roughed them up, ordering them both to hand overtheir wallets and cell phones.

After failing to get the attention of one passing vehicle, Khangura flagged down a taxi who saved them before things turned really ugly.

Khangura’s is no isolated incident of violence targeting Indians in Melbourne, Australia’s second most populous city with more than 50,000 Indians. According to the Federation of Indian Students of Australia (FISA), Indian university students have been targeted since the last six years. Gautam Gupta, FISA media liaison officer, said that victims of the 60-plus documented attacks have sustained broken bones and required stitches.

FISA is determined to bring the trend to the attention of the mainstream media in order to gain support from the Australian authorities. Dinesh Malhotra, founding editor of Bharat Times, has also been highlighting the issue. “Yes, some of the students are scared,’’ he said.

“They even have the mistaken idea that they could be deported simply for reporting these matters to the police.” He insisted that the problem of crimes targeting Indians was confined to Melbourne although he had heard about “some incidents in Sydney, but not to this extent”.

There are an estimated 33,000 Indian students at universities and other educational institutions in the state of Victoria. Kanan Kharbanda, a 28-year-old Indian student lost his sight after being attacked. “He lost his quality of life and couldn’t continue his university course,” FISA’s Gupta said.

Kharbanda returned to India for medical treatment and is now back in Australia completing his course.

One hopes that students pursuing degrees in Australia will only have to worry about their academic results, and not their safety.