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Indian Man Set Ablaze In Melbourne

In yet another attack targeting Indians in Australia, a 29-year-old man from the country was set on fire by a group of four assailants in Melbourne on Saturday, drawing strong condemnation from a student body
PTI January 09, 2010 22:29 IST

In yet another attack targeting Indians in Australia, a 29-year-old man from the country was set on fire by a group of four assailants in Melbourne on Saturday, drawing strong condemnation from a student body which called such assaults unacceptable and asked authorities not to "dodge" the issue.

Jaspreet Singh was attacked in Essendon area of northwest Melbourne shortly before 2.00 am local time (0730 HRS IST), a week after an Indian student was stabbed to death amid a slew of assaults on the community in Australia.

Singh, who suffered 20 per cent burns including on his arms, chest and face, was admitted to 'The Alfred' hospital.

Singh and his wife left a dinner party in Essendon between 1.30 am and 2 am and drove to their nearby home in Grice Crescent. He dropped his wife at home and had gone to park his car when he was attacked, local media reported.

Police said that as he was getting out of the car, four men attacked him, pushing him back against the vehicle and pouring an unknown fluid on him. One of the men then ignited the fluid with a lighter before all the attackers fled.

The victim, who is now in a stable condition in the hospital, ran from the car while peeling off his clothes.

Denying any racial angle to the attack, detective Acting Senior Sergeant Neil Smyth said it is not yet known who the four men could be or their relationship to the victim. He said investigations indicate the attack was random.

"It's unlikely to be a racially motivated incident as due to the timing and the nature, it's highly unlikely anyone could have targeted the victim in the circumstances," Smyth said.

The incident is being investigated by the arson and explosives squad of police.

Police appealed for public assistance to locate the victim's clothes, which he shed as he fled the scene.

Singh's friends said he has been living in the city on a spouse visa.

Meanwhile, Gautam Gupta, President of Federation of Indian Students of Australia (FISA), said such attacks are unacceptable and the federal Government must act against them.

"We are extremely disturbed, we have contacted the Prime Minister's office and have suggested that they intervene, it's high time they intervene," he said. "How many times are they going to just dodge this issue."

Australian Deputy Premier Julia Gillard condemned the attack on Singh, saying the "matter remains under investigation by Victorian police and government would not comment further until police provide more information".

"Government condemns such acts of violence in the strongest way," she said.

The attack comes a week after the stabbing death of 21-year-old Indian graduate Nitin Garg in a Yarraville park while he was on his way to his part-time job in a restaurant.

The body of another Indian youth, 25-year-old Ranjodh Singh, was found beside Wilga Road in Willbriggie in the neighbouring state of New South Wales on December 29.

As one more Indian was attacked in Australia, India on Saturday amplified its exasperation over continuance of such "disturbing" incidents despite promises of action by Australian government and said the matter has been taken up "vigorously" with authorities there.

Interestingly, however, the Ministry of External Affairs asked the media to exercise "utmost restraint" while reporting on such "sensitive" matters as it could have bearing on bilateral relations.

"We came to know that another attack has taken place in Australia. It is unfortunate that things are not moving as they promised. It is very disturbing for everyone of us in the government as well as for the people of the country," Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi told reporters here.

He was commenting on the latest incident in which a 29-year-old Indian Jaspreet Singh was set on fire by four assailants in Melbourne.

 Ravi said Australian authorities must act tough on those behind such crimes and put them behind bars.

"I want to make it loudly clear that the (Australian) government should take preventive action," he said.

 Ravi claimed police know the elements behind these attacks and the persons committing these crimes.

"Why cannot they arrest them and put them behind bars and prosecute them? My suggestion is that please take preventive action against these elements. Our government expresses serious concerns and waiting for better results," Ravi said on the sidelines of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas here. PTI