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Australia Condemns Garg's Killing, Says, Attack Not Racial

Australian authorities on Monday "unreservedly" condemned the killing of an Indian youth in Melbourne calling his stabbing a heinous crime even as police claimed there was no evidence to suggest that it was a racial
PTI January 04, 2010 21:42 IST

Australian authorities on Monday "unreservedly" condemned the killing of an Indian youth in Melbourne calling his stabbing a heinous crime even as police claimed there was no evidence to suggest that it was a racial attack.

21-year-old Nitin Garg, an accounting graduate who was originally from Punjab, died after he was stabbed yesterday in West Footscray area. He was the first to die in a slew of attacks on Indians in Australia.

"I obviously unreservedly condemn this attack," Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said. "People in Melbourne's west, people around the nation, I think they will be joining together to say we unreservedly condemn this violence."

Gillard said police should now be allowed to carry out their investigation.

"This is a nation that welcomes international students," she said. "We want to make them welcome, this is a welcoming and accepting country."

Condemning the killing of Garg, Victorian Acting Premier Rob Hulls said "the tragic death of a young Indian lad is ... abhorrent, it is a heinous crime and it is something that the police are putting all resources into investigating and finding the culprit."

Victorian police, meanwhile, denied any racism angle in the killing of the Indian youth, claiming that there was no evidence to suggest it was a racially-motivated attack.

"I think to draw any conclusion as to the motive may interfere with the investigation and would be presumptuous at this stage," Senior Sergeant Dave Snare from the Homicide Squad was quoted as saying by 'The Age'.

Victorian Acting Premier Hulls also asked people not to jump to conclusions about the incident being a racial attack. He said he had not been advised on whether the stabbing was a hate crime.

"I don't think anyone should jump to conclusions at this stage. I think it's important that police be allowed to get on with the job of investigating this heinous crime," he said.

Hulls claimed that Victoria remained one of the safest places in the world, with crime rates falling dramatically in the past few years.

The government had introduced new legislation requiring judges to consider hate crime in sentencing violent offenders and police had extra powers to conduct random weapons searches, he said.

"We will continue to do what we can as a government to reduce crime, to make Victoria a safe place to live, a safe place to have holidays, a safe place to visit," Hulls said.

Garg was stabbed in the abdomen as he walked to his part- time job at Hungry Jack's restaurant in West Footscray on Saturday night (0330 HRS IST yesterday). He died later in hospital.

The attack drew strong reaction from India which said such incidents could have a "bearing" on bilateral ties.

 In Bangalore, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna asserted that the Australian government was "duty bound" to probe the fatal stabbing of Nitin Garg and bring the culprits to book.

 Krishna said such incidents would vitiate the atmosphere of trust and cordiality between the two countries.

 "Unfortunate incidents like the Indian student killing (in Melbourne) case will only vitiate the atmosphere of trust, the atmosphere of belief, the atmosphere of cordiality of the relationship," he told reporters. 

Krishna said whether it was a racist attack or motivated by something else "the fact of the matter is that an Indian student has been murdered and the Australian government is duty bound and morally bound to go for investigations and then bring the culprit to book".

"That is the least the Australian government can do and that is what we expect," he said while replying to a question on the Australian police claim that it was not a racist attack.

Asked whether the incident would have a bearing on Indo-Australian ties, he said the bilateral relationship has so far been very strong and alluded to three high-level visits by the Australian political leadership to India and his own visit to that country last year.

"These are all high-level visits meant to strengthen bilateral relationship between India and Australia," he said.

On the follow-up action with the Australian government regarding the attack on 21-year-old Nitin Garg, Krishna said he had spoken to the Indian High Commissioner in Canberra this morning, who has taken up the issue with the Australian government "in the strongest possible terms".

"I have also asked her to convey the Indian government's deep concern over the incident involving an Indian student," he said.

BJP on Monday  accused the Government of not coming out with a firm response on attacks on Indians in Australia and suggested using "coercive diplomacy" to find a solution. 

"The Prime Minister should tell how many more Indians will be either killed or attacked in Australia before the Government comes out with a response," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said in New Delhi. 

Accusing External Affairs Minister S M Krishna of "only giving proforma reactions," he said the Government should use "coercive diplomacy" to help Indians settled in Australia.PTI