Punjab-born bus driver Manmeet Alisher, killed in a brutal attack in the Australian city of Brisbane, was set to return home to Sangrur later this year to finalise his marriage, his brother Amit Sharma said on Friday.
Family members still haven’t told Alisher’s aged parents of his death because they fear they will not be able to endure the shock, he told Hindustan Times.
“My parents can’t survive such news and due to this fear, the family has not told them about the death of Manmeet. He was coming in December as we have almost finalised a girl for his marriage in early January,” said Sharma, who was set to travel from Alisher village to Australia to claim his elder brother’s body.
The family snapped their cable TV connection to ensure that Alisher’s parents didn’t learn of his death. “Our parents only know that Manmeet was injured in a bus accident and is in hospital. The family is mentally preparing them to share the news of his demise,” an inconsolable Sharma said.
Though police in Brisbane said there was nothing to suggest the attack on Alisher, also known as Manmeet Sharma, was motivated by terrorism or racial factors, his family believes the incident was a chilling reminder of earlier racial crimes against Indians studying and living in Australia.
Some friends and relatives of Alisher described it as a racial incident.
“I am not in position to comment. The police says there was no apparent indication it was a race-related incident, but authorities are still not clearly saying why the man threw some inflammable liquid only on my brother and set him ablaze. Manmeet was killed mercilessly,” Sharma said.
The village was in shock as Alisher was well known across Sangrur district. His family is associated with the Shiromani Akali Dal, and Alisher hosted politicians such as AAP MP Bhagwant Mann and Akali leaders when they visited Brisbane.
Alisher also performed at various events and his last performance was at the expatriate Punjabi community’s Diwali celebrations on October 23.
A student of the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya in Sangrur, he moved to Australia about nine years ago on a student visa. He started a restaurant called Desi Flavours and drove a bus for the Brisbane City Council.
Bhagwant Mann, the MP from Sangrur, shared pictures taken with Alisher on Facebook. AAP leaders Durgesh Pathak and Kumar Vishwas tweeted about his death and SAD leader Winnerjit Singh Goldy asked Union minister Harsimrat Kaur to help the family in bringing the body back to India.
Congress leader Captain Amarinder Singh expressed shock at the brutal killing and demanded that the Australian government should conduct a high-level investigation into the incident and ensure the safety of all Indian immigrants. Singh said he would also ask the government to raise the issue at the diplomatic level.
In 2011, then prime minister Manmohan Singh had taken up the issue of racial attacks with the Australian government. There were more than 100 such attacks on Punjabis during 2009-11, rights activists said.