Australia today said the attack on an Indian set afire here was not “targeted” or “racially- motivated”, amid reports that two men attempting to leave this country were quizzed and had their passports seized over the killing of another youth from the community in New South Wales.
Police said there were strange circumstances surrounding the attack on 29-year-old Jaspreet Singh, who was set on fire by a group of four men in suburb of Essendon in northwest Melbourne on Saturday – which have led them to believe that it was not racially-motivated.
Detective acting senior sergeant Neil Smyth said police are yet to locate the charred clothes which Mr. Singh, who received 20 per cent burns on his body, discarded shortly after the incident. He said police have a general description of who the offenders could be.
“I believe there is no reason at this stage to consider this in any way as racially-motivated. The circumstances of him parking the car randomly in a side street and just some people approaching him are a bit strange,” he said. “It’s highly unlikely therefore to be a targeted attack on any individual.”
Meanwhile in Sydney, two men, believed to be Indian seasonal workers, were quizzed and had their passports seized at the city’s airport after they were briefly detained by detectives probing the killing of 25-year-old Ranjodh Singh, whose partially-burnt body was found recently.
Ranjodh Singh, a seasonal work contractor who recruited Indian immigrants to work on farms in the Riverina, had been living in Wagga Wagga area and was visiting Griffith in New South Wales at the time of his death. His partially-charred body was found on the side of Wilga Road at Willbriggie on December 29.
The two men, believed to be employed by Singh as seasonal workers, were detained at Sydney airport’s departure lounge last Monday as they were about to board a flight to Nepal via Singapore, ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ reported.
They were questioned at Mascot police station but were later released without charge after being forced to hand in their passports.
Detectives believe Ranjodh Singh may have been murdered in a fight over unpaid wages at a Christmas party two days before his killing.
A post-mortem examination revealed his throat had been slashed and he had suffered multiple stab wounds before being bound and set alight in an effort to conceal his identity, the report said.
The government of Victorian, which has witnessed most of these assaults, has expressed hope that such incidents would not damage people’s opinion about Australia being a “safe” place to study, work and live and asked police to carry out a thorough probe.
“We don’t support any sorts of violence at all irrespective of who it is against, whether it is against people who are born and live here or whether it is for all of the fantastic migrants or refugees or students who come to our country,” Victoria’s Minister Peter Batchelor said.
“Whether it is racially motivated or whether ii is for some other reason such as theft or some other crime related factor, it diminishes our community, it diminishes us all and we’re totally opposed to it,” he said, adding “we want police to thoroughly investigate this to get to the bottom of it.”
Australian federal government, however, welcomed Indian authorities’ “constructive and responsible advice” to the media to exercise restraint while reporting attacks on the community members here.
“I am very pleased that overnight the (Indian) government has issued what I believe is a very constructive and responsible advice (to the media) and that is not to overreact to it, to understand that investigations are being undertaken,” Acting Foreign Minister Simon Crean said.
“We need to get all of the facts first and we shouldn’t overreact until all of the facts are in,” he was quoted as saying by the local media
Mr. Crean noted the government was going through a difficult time in its relationship with India because of these attacks.
His remarks came a day after the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi asked the media to exercise “utmost restraint” while reporting on such “sensitive” matters as it could have bearing on bilateral relations.
Mr. Crean also said there was no evidence to suggest that the recent attacks were racist.