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Indian PM Modi raises Manmeet Alisher’s incineration death in Australia with Malcolm Turnbull

Family suggests racial hate crime in killing of Manmeet; parents not yet told of Manmeet’s death

Melbourne, October 31: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday, in a telephonic conversation with his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull, expressed concern over the death of Indian-origin Manmeet Sharma (Alisher) who worked as a bus driver in Australia.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi, telephoned Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia, today to wish him Diwali greetings,” the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

Modi also reiterated his invitation to Turnbull for a visit to India in 2017, the statement added.

“Prime Minister Modi also conveyed a sense of concern being felt in India over the recent brutal killing of Manmeet Alisher, a person of Indian origin, in Australia,” it said.

Manmeet was well-known among the Indian diaspora in Brisbane, and was loved as their local singer. He died after an “incendiary device” was thrown at him while he was letting passengers on at Moorooka area in Brisbane, Queensland, on Friday morning.

According to the External Affairs Ministry statement, during Sunday’s conversation with Modi, Turnbull “expressed shock at the killing and conveyed that the matter is being investigated”.

Anthony Mark Edward O’Donohue, 48, appeared in a Brisbane court on Saturday, accused of murder, arson and 11 counts of attempted murder.

Meanwhile, Manmeet’s brother Amit, arrived in Brisbane yesterday morning from India amidst a very emotional scene within Brisbane’s Punjabi community.

Manmeet's brother (third from left) arrives at Brisbane airport @ABC
Manmeet’s brother (third from left) arrives at Brisbane airport @ABC

An emotional Amit declined to speak to media upon his arrival.

However, before departing from India, Amit told ABC that his family suspected the killing was racially motivated.

Despite earlier police statements that there was “no apparent motive” for the attack, Amit said: “We suspect that it may be (racially motivated).”

“We would like to see due process, we have faith in the Australian system,” Amit said suggesting that family feared that this was more than a normal crime.

A close friend of the family, Winnerjit Singh, said they would keenly await news of the police investigation.

Raising the “senseless, needless” attack, he questioned if it was “not racism… not a terrorist attack,” what it could be.

“But the issue is … why target Manmeet only? Right now there are a lot of questions in our mind,” Singh told ABC.

He said the family was shocked and saddened by the brutal – “shocking, unbelievable” killing.

He urged Australia to protect the community.

Manmeet’s parents too old to bear son’s death

Speaking to Amrit Dhillon of Brisbane Times, Amit said that his parents had not yet been told of Manmeet’s passing away.

Amit spoke from Singapore airport where he was waiting for a connecting flight to Brisbane on Saturday afternoon.

He sobbed and explained: “They are too old – my father is 70 – they won’t be able to take it. I have told them he is in hospital after getting hurt in a road accident and that’s why I am going to see him in Brisbane.”

His parents urged him to rush to be with his brother, as relatives at home have maintained the same fiction for Manmeet’s parents.

“My aunts, uncles and cousins are being very careful,” he said.

“We are going to have to break the news to my parents gradually…

“I’m scared my father will have a heart attack. First I’m going to say his condition has worsened and then… then I will have to tell them that Manmeet has gone,” Amit sobbed.

Vigil for Manmeet, held at the site of attack
Vigil for Manmeet, held at the site of attack @ABC

In Brisbane, Amit attended the scene of the attack where Manmeet was killed; and also partook in a special prayer service organized by Brisbane Punjabi community leaders.

Earlier, Saturday night, more than 1,000 people attended memorial service to pay tribute to Manmeet. Friends including cab drivers, bus drivers and other members of the community were present.

Many regarded him as a benevolent soul, who had helped many Punjabis settle down in Australia.

Manmeet Sharma was better known as Manmeet Alisher, who was a beloved local singer in the community. Music and fine arts were Manmeet’s passion and he was a part-time singer at weddings and political functions.

He worked as a bus driver for Brisbane City council. The 29 year old had moved to Australia on a student visa about nine years back.

He was booked to visit the family home at their village in Sangrur, Punjab, on 15 December, this year; after his family found a bride for him.

They were hoping to fix a wedding date for next year upon Manmeet’s visit.

Australia is home to over a 450,000-strong Indians and Manmeet’s death has come as a shock to the community.

Ramakrishna VenuGopal

Also read: Punjabi Brisbane bus driver set alight with "NO Apparent Motive"

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