Brisbane driver burning: Punjab village in shock

Chandigarh, Oct 28 (IANS) Residents of Alisher village in Punjab’s Sangrur district were in shock on Friday after the sudden news of 29-year-old Indian origin bus driver, Manmeet Alisher, being charred to death in Brisbane city of Australia’s Queensland state reached here.

The parents of the victim were only told that there was an accident involving Alisher’s bus and that he was injured. They were not informed that he had been killed in the burning incident.

His younger brother, Amit Sharma, was on Friday preparing to leave for Australia to claim the body.

Villagers said that they were shocked to hear of the brutal and untimely death of Alisher, saying he was a promising and hard-working man.

The attack took place when Alisher, who was driving a Brisbane City Council bus, pulled into Moorvale Shopping Centre on Beaudesert Road to pick up more passengers.

A 48-year-old man at the scene was arrested after he allegedly boarded the bus in Brisbane before “throwing some type of incendiary device at the driver”, Manmeet Alisher, Xinhua news agency quoted police as saying.

“We have not informed our parents about his death. They will not be able to bear the shock. He was preparing to come home in December to get married. He has been killed mercilessly,” said his brother.

Manmeet Alisher, a soft-spoken man, had migrated to Australia nine years back. He was a singer and also organised events there, besides driving the bus. He had also opened a restaurant there.

Seeking a high-level investigation into the incident from the Australian government, Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh said that he was shocked at the brutal killing.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said Alisher was one of its volunteers in Australia and mourned his death.

“Manmeet Alisher, AAP volunteer from Australia, was murdered,” tweeted AAP leader Durgesh Pathak. “We stand by his family in these tough times.”

Alisher’s death was also mourned by AAP leaders Kumar Vishwas and Preeti Sharma Menon, both from the AAP Overseas Wing.

“Devastating news,” Menon tweeted. “AAP volunteer killed in shocking attack. He will be missed.”

Alisher’s actual name was Manmeet Sharma. Local media reported that Alisher was a popular Indian singer and a prominent figure in Brisbane’s Punjabi community. He was described as a soft spoken, courteous and genuine man.

Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said in Brisbane: “Sadly the driver died as a result of his injuries.”

He said there was no evidence of any link to “terrorist type activities” or links to racial motivation.

“While we don’t know the motivations at this stage, I want to reassure the community that we take these incidents very seriously,” Stewart said, adding counter-terror authorities were initially involved.

Several passengers on board the bus at the time managed to escape via the rear doors “partly because of the heroic actions of a taxi driver who saw what was unfolding”, Stewart said.

The Australian media reported that flags will be flown at half mast across Brisbane on Saturday.