An Indian student, who lost vision in one eye after being brutally bashed up by a teenage gang, is disappointed to see his assailants walk free following a court verdict, but has not lost hope in the Australian judicial system.
“I will fight for it (justice). I want to see them behind bar. They should be punished,” 27-year-old Kanan Kharbanda said, expressing his extreme disappointment over Wednesday’s ruling.
All his attackers, who assaulted him two years back, escaped prison with only one given an eight-month suspended jail term and 40 hours of community work.
Kharbanda’s case had received blanket media coverage across India and other parts of the world.
However, he refused to call the attack on him a racial assault.
“I don’t know, I cannot say if it was racially motivated,” Kharbanda said, adding the other side of the story was that post-attack he received immense support from Victorian police officer Rob Bailey who assured him of his safety as well as from the Australian government and political leaders.
“Rob Bailey was my case officer and he has been really helpful. My lawyer from Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), leader of opposition party Ted Belluia, Indian consulate have all helped me from time to time in rehabilitating me back,” he acknowledged.
Kharbanda said everyone is disappointed with the decision on his case and that the DPP will now be appealing against the sentencing.
Like hundreds of Indian students, he came to Australia after taking loan from a bank to acquire quality education. “I come from a middle class family and my father borrowed money for my education,” he said.
“I came here to lead a good life, but see what has happened ... though I thank God that I was not stabbed.
There is a disability but I am looking at the positive side now,” Kharbanda said.
He said his accounting course was to get finished by early 2009 but because of the assault he had to take a break that pushed him back.
“I was to finish my studies last year but I finished it (the course) only this May,” he said.
Kharabanda had to fly back to India for treatment after the attack. “I have received compensation from the government ... that has helped me to stay on,” he added.
According to Crime Victims Support Association President Noel McNamara, it was beyond belief that the youths who assaulted Kharbanda had been let off “scot free.”
“It’s disgraceful. The Indian community has the right — all citizens have the right — to be up in arms” against it, he said.
Shadow Attorney General Robert Clark said it was extraordinary that none of the attackers would spend time behind bars.
The Herald Sun, which published the story about the verdict, received on its website some 420 responses since Wednesday, with most of the readers criticising the ruling.
Handing over the sentence on Wednesday, Judge Susan Cohen gave eight-month suspended jail to Majang Ngor of the teenage gang for the unprovoked attack on Kharbanda.
At least three other youths — who cannot be named because of their age — were given nine-month youth supervision orders in the Children’s Court.
Ngor pleaded guilty in the County Court to recklessly causing serious injury, intentionally causing injury, robbery and attempted robbery over the attack.
Kharbanda was attacked by the youths at the Sunshine Station in March 2008.