Moorooka bus fire: Indian PM calls Turnbull over Manmeet Sharma

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Friends and bus drivers gathered at a vigil in Moorooka, Brisbane on Saturday night to pay their respects to Manmeet Sharma. Photo: Amy Mitchell-Whittington Mr Alisher was an enthusiastic singer and hobby film-maker. Photo: supplied
Nanjing Night Net

Smoke billows from the bus at Moorooka. Photo: Twitter / ABC

India’s Prime Minister has raised concerns with his Australian counterpart over the alleged murder of a Punjabi bus driver set alight on a Brisbane bus.

In a statement issued on Sunday, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said PM Narendra Modi called Malcolm Turnbull to send him Diwali greetings.

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

“Prime Minister Turnbull expressed shock at the killing and conveyed that the matter is being investigated.”

When asked on Monday morning, Mr Turnbull said he could understand his counterpart’s concerns.

“In fact, I spoke to Prime Minister Modi about it last night and conveyed our sympathies and condolences,” he said.

“The matter, of course, is being closely investigated (and) I will keep him informed as the results of the investigation arise.”

A series of attacks on Indian students in Australia in 2009 caused tensions between the two countries and raised concerns in India about racially motivated violence.

Police have struggled to detail a motive for the fire attack in Brisbane’s south just after 9am on Friday, in which an “incendiary device” was allegedly thrown on the 29-year-old casual bus driver, also known as Manmeet Sharma, as he pulled up to collect passengers.

Moorooka man Anthony O’Donohue, 48, has been charged with the murder of the driver and another 11 counts of attempted murder.

Outside court on Saturday, his lawyer said he held concerns for his client’s mental health.

Within hours of the incident, which sent shockwaves through the city’s Indian, transport, and wider communities and made headlines back home, they said there was no indication of terrorism or racial motivation.

Mr Sharma’s brother Amit Alisher told the ABC he feared the attack may have been a hate crime, fearing the worst even in the absence of any clear evidence.

“We suspect that it may be [racially motivated],” he said.

“We would like to see due process, we have faith in the Australian system.”

Long-term family friend Winnerjit Goldy and Manmeet’s older brother Amit Sharma rushed for Australia at the weekend and have called for justice over the death.

The slain driver’s parents are still yet to learn of the popular singer, actor and community man’s death.

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