Melbourne, Australia: In a racially motivated attack that was witnessed by about 40 to 50 people, four persons of Indian origin were attacked and beaten up last Saturday by four men, believed to be Caucasian, in the parking lot of a bar in Melbourne’s Epping suburb.
The attackers, who were part of a group celebrating a birthday party in a bar where the victims had earlier been playing pool, used bottles and flower vases in addition to their fists to mercilessly beat up a father, his son and his two nephews- all Sikhs- while they chanted “You Indians! Go back to your country”. A large number of those who witnessed the incident joined the attackers in making racist comments.
The victims have been identified as Mukhtiar Singh, his son Inderpal Singh and nephews Gurdip Singh and Sukhdip Singh, both of who are brothers. Both Mukhtiar and Gurdip were released from hospital on Sunday. Sukhdip Singh, who suffered a broken jaw and nose and is on liquid diet because of his inability to open his mouth, was released yesterday. He is scheduled to visit an eye specialist and a plastic surgeon tomorrow. Inderpal Singh managed to escape without serious injury.
The victims were playing pool at the Legends Entertainment bar in Epping, a suburb in north Melbourne, when some people attending a birthday party started to pass racial comments and swear words.
The victims ignored the group and continued to play for almost an hour thereafter.
However, just as they left, many in the group followed them to the car park, where they launched an unprovoked attack on the victims.
The incident has been significant not as much for the attacks in a city where crime is, otherwise on the rise, as it is for the identity of the victims, the venue of the attacks and the form in which the attacks had been carried out.
First of all, both Mukhtiar and his Australian born son Inderpal are Australian citizens, while Gurdip, an Indian passport holder has been a permanent resident.
Sukhbir, however, had arrived in Melbourne only a month back on a spouse visa. Both he and his wife, who is a student, have been living with his married brother Gurdip.
Ironically, the solitary student among the victims was Inderpal Singh, the Australian born citizen, who managed to flee the attackers and call the police.
The police, who arrived within 10 minutes, have officially admitted to witnessing the racist comments. In a statement, the Victoria police said they arrested four males, who were later released pending further investigations.
Police said they are yet to identify a number of people from the offending group and appealed to anyone with information about the identity of those involved.
The venue of the racial slurs followed by the brutal attacks was not a train or a street in a crime prone part of the city, as has been the case in most attacks on Indians in the past.
By playing pool in at a bar, both of which are regarded as a typical Australian form of entertainment, the four victims were actually identifying themselves with the Australian mainstream.
The fact that they were quickly singled out is a clear reflection of racism and intolerance among a section of people present there.
Finally, it is for the first time that racist attacks have been carried out with a mob that encouraged the attacks by hurling racial slurs, or at best, chose to remain a mute witness.