Punjab-born bus driver Manmeet Sharma, 29, was burnt alive in a brutal attack in the Australian city of Brisbane as he was doused in a flammable liquid while he stopped to pick up passengers.
Following the event, PM Narendra Modi called Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and conveyed a sense of concern being felt in India over the recent brutal killing of Manmeet Sharma, also known as Manmeet Alisher, in Australia.
Sharma, the sibling to an elder brother and two sisters, was also due to marry next year, but destiny had something else stored for him.
According to Australia’s state Health Minister Cameron Dick, the 48-year-old man, Anthony Mark Edward O’Donohue, accused of murdering Manmeet was a former mental health patient. He has undergone treatment at Queensland Health’s mental health services.
Though Queensland police have claimed that there is no evidence the crime was racially motivated, there have been a series of attacks on Indian students in Melbourne in 2009. There is also suspicion in India that Sharma’s killing was a hate crime.
This was not the first time that an Indian has been killed in Australia in such a manner. In one such incident in 2009, Indian-origin Sravan Kumar Theerthala, 25, was stabbed with a screwdriver. Following this, thousands of Indian students protested in central Melbourne, venting their frustration over recent violent attacks on Indian students. Prior to that there were over 70 assaults on Indians in 2008.
Hundreds attended a vigil for Manmeet Sharma, with over 1,000 people attending a memorial service for the popular member of Brisbane’s Indian community.
Alisher’s brother Amit was issued an emergency visa and arrived in Australia on October 30 to escort his brother’s body home. According to persons close to family, Alisher’s elderly parents have not yet been told he was dead.
“We haven’t told the parents that he’s no more, we just say it’s an accident, he’s in a coma,” family spokesperson Winnerjit Goldy said.
“Manmeet was a “visionary man” who was a leader in his community. He was not only driver, he is a shining star, a good artist, a good hero, he had made two movies, he was a good social worker, he did a lot of things for his community in Australia even in India also,” Goldy said.
“It’s a really hard time for us. This is a bad day in the history of Australia. It’s a country of justice and we feel we will get a justice.
According to Goldy: “We suspect that it may be [racially motivated]. We would like to see due process, we have faith in the Australian system.”