The family of a boy who was allegedly mocked and assaulted for wearing a turban on a Melbourne bus have expressed their shock at an attack they say was a crime against their faith and identity.
When the Singh family came from India to settle in Melbourne with their two children, they thought they had found a country where they could feel safe.
But that changed last week, on February 23, when their 13-year-old son Harjeet said he was assaulted.
He and his friends had been talking with one another on a bus when three strangers boarded at Eltham station in Melbourne.
"They came up to us and started swearing and said the 'F bomb' a few times and the girl said I had a 'worthless towel' on my head," Harjeet said.
The girl was referring to his turban, an article he described as a crown of pride for his Sikh faith.
Harjeet said the girl then hit him hard, twice, and attempted to remove his turban.
He said one of the men then told Harjeet "there aren't that many stabbings in Eltham".
"I was so scared. I just froze and when my friends got off the bus I got off with them," Harjeet said.
Once a twice-daily routine, the 13-year-old is now too scared to catch the bus alone, relying on his sister to accompany him.
His mother, Rajinder Kaur Gill, has feared for him every day since.
"This is not just a general crime, it is a racial attack, this is an attack on our identity," she said.
One week later, she was visibly upset as she recounted her son's ordeal.
"To hit me, I can bear that. But this, this is hard to even say that they hit my son's turban and tried to pull it off. This is the biggest insult," she said.
The whole family has been affected, but Rajinder said their priority was to protect other Sikhs from similar treatment.
"[Some people] think this is a joke, the turban. [But] we wear it as a crown and we are proud."
Victoria Police have identified a trio of teenagers as the alleged perpetrators, with investigations in the early phase.
They have asked anyone with information to contact Crimestoppers on 1300 555 000.