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Indian students form groups to protect themselves in Australia

The string of attacks on students from India while travelling on late-night trains has forced them to form groups to protect themselves in this Australian city.

world Updated: Jun 05, 2009 13:16 IST

The string of attacks on students from India while travelling on late-night trains has forced them to form groups to protect themselves in this Australian city.

Every night this week students and workers have gathered at the western suburbs station of St Albans to provide safe passage for Indian commuters, The Age reported on Friday.

"Their action is in response to racist taunts and abuse on trains, and bashings while making their way home."

The community had no option after incidents of intimidation in which train inspectors failed to intervene and police failed to respond to calls for help, the newspaper quoted commuter Gary Singh as saying.

A group of 100 to 150 mostly Indian men meet outside the station.

The group waits at the station every night from 9.30 pm until the last train. Then it is divided into smaller groups that are assigned to street corners to prevent attacks.

On Tuesday night, a long knife was flashed at Singh and two of his friends.

Singh said he called police and pointed out the youths but "the police didn't check on them, they just told us to go home".

"We are not giving up," he said. "We are here to save our friends. We are not getting any protection from police or from the railways."

Another youth Amrinder Singh, 21, said his former housemate was badly beaten on his way home 18 months ago. Six months later he was punched in the eye by a group of five, including a girl. It took police 90 minutes to arrive.

Inderjeet Singh, 20, an automotive student at RMIT, spoke of arriving on the 1.05 am train and as he walked home with four friends, a car with five men lay in wait for them, armed with a golf stick and baseball bats. They managed to flee.

Gary Singh said the Indian student community was fed up. "If Kevin (Prime Minister Rudd) can return everyone's money, we will go back. We're not here for any violence, we're here for study. He can return whatever we've spent on rent and fares."

There has been a spate of attack on students from India. In one of the worst attacks, Sravan Kumar Theerthala from Andhra Pradesh was stabbed with a screwdriver. He was in the ICU of the Royal Melbourne Hospital and is now showing signs of improvement.

South Asia Times quoted Gautam Gupta, leader and founder of Federation of Indian Students of Australia (FISA), as saying that Theerthala has now been shifted to the High Dependency Unit of the hospital from the ICU.

On June 3, an Indian student from Gujarat was attacked at the Newport Station in Melbourne. He was attacked with a cricket and baseball bat at around 2 pm. Another student who witnessed the attack was chased by the offenders.

The string of assaults on Indian students in Australia has now gone up to seven in over three weeks.

On Tuesday, N Singh, 21, was attacked by a group of men in suburban Melbourne after they stopped him and demanded cigarettes and money.

Singh, a nursing student at Chisholm College, Dandenong, in Melbourne's east, was slashed with a box-cutter knife carried by one of five men who confronted him in a car park.

On May 30, Ashish Sood, studying at the Carrik Institute in Melbourne, was badly beaten up by a group of 15 youngsters. The incident took place at the city's Chappel Street.

He, along with three others, was attacked by the group "who started teasing and bullying them for nothing and then pounced on them".

In Sydney, hospitality graduate Rajesh Kumar received 30 per cent burns after a petrol bomb was hurled through the window of his Harris Park home.

The repeated attacks on Indian students in this capital of the Victoria province has led the provincial government to push for a plan that would have tougher sentences for hate crimes.

First Published: Jun 05, 2009 13:12 IST