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Five Held For Attacks On Indians in Australia

Australian authorities have charged five teenagers for two separate attacks on Indian students in Melbourne, as an official asserted the assaults were not motivated racially, reports say.

A teenager was charged with attempted murder over the attack with a screwdriver on 25-year-old Sravan Kumar Theerthala who is battling for his life, while four others were charged with brutally beating up 21-year-old Sourabh Sharma on a train.

A 17-year-old male from Glenroy was charged with attempted murder after four Indian students were attacked with a screwdriver by gatecrashers at a party in Hadfield, in Melbourne's north, Saturday night. An 18-year-old youth from Heidelberg West was questioned in relation to the attack but released later.

The police have also charged four minors from Melbourne's west with offences, including affray, intentionally causing injury, recklessly causing injury and robbery, over the brutal assault on Sharma who was going home on a Werribee line train after a shift at a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) outlet.

Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe said there was no indication that a rise in assaults and robberies against Indian students in Melbourne's west was due to "race hate". He attributed the attacks to a perception that Indians were weak prey for criminals.

"I don't think they are (racist crimes) in general ... more opportunistic activity. We think they are vulnerable, we don't think it's racial, we think they are a weak target," Walshe said. He said a taskforce was working with representatives of Melbourne's Indian community to catch those responsible for the attacks.

Stephen Smith, Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, condemned Thursday the wave of attacks on Indian students in the country. "As Foreign Minister, I'm appalled by these attacks, and I condemn them absolutely," he said.

Assuring safety to Indian students, he said the students had faced problems in one particular location in Melbourne. Australia took very seriously its reputation as a safe destination for Indian students, he said.

"Action is being taken. The police are giving particular focus to this issue. They have launched a police operation specifically to investigate allegations of attacks on students," he added.

He also said, " a hotline, staffed by volunteers who are fluent in English and Hindi, has been established to provide support, information and advice to Indian students."

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