Bhajji’s cousin suspects foul play in his son’s death in Australia

May 31st, 2009 - 6:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Harbhajan Singh Chandigarh, May 31 (IANS) Amidst the spurt in attacks on Indian students in Australia that many say are racially motivated, the cousin of Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has alleged foul play in the death of his son in Melbourne May 7.
The body of Upkar Singh was found near the railway track near his apartment in Thornbury area of Melbourne May 7. It was sent to India May 14 and cremated here May 15.

His father said the Australian police had not even conducted a post-mortem examination and closed the case, terming the death a suicide.

“My son was very happy with his life as he had got permanent residency and was earning good money so why would he commit suicide. We want a thorough probe. I am sure that my son has fallen victim to intense racialism prevailing in Australia,” Jagjit Singh, a cousin of Harbhajan Singh, told IANS.

Moreover, there was no injury mark on the body except some bruises near his eye, he said.

Jagjit Singh, a resident of Punjab’s Jalandhar town, around 150 km from Chandigarh, said Upkar, his only son, had gone to Australia in 2004, after passing Class 12, for a diploma course in hospitality management. Thereafter he attained permanent residency status, started driving a taxi, and settled in Victoria.

“Many times Upkar had told me over phone about the frequent clashes between Indian taxi drivers and their Australian counterparts, who passed racist comments against them and were unhappy as they believed that Indians are intruding in their business,” he added.

Asked why he was reacting so late, Jagit Singh said: “Till now, I was gathering courage to raise this issue as I had lost everything in a single blow. It took time for me to come out of this shock.”

He said that he had also talked to Upkar’s roommates in Australia but they did not tell him anything and said that officials there were not very helpful.

Meanwhile, worried parents of Indian students in Australia, staged a protest in Amritsar town in Punjab, around 250 km from here, and demanded that the foreign ministry deal with this issue seriously.

“Both of my sons are in Melbourne. One of them is working in a hotel there while the other is studying accounting there. I had talked to them and I felt a tone of gloom in their voice that I have never experienced before,” said Harpal Singh Brar, a parent.

Jasleen Kaur, another worried parent, told IANS: “Through this protest, we want to appeal to our foreign ministry and prime minister to take care of our wards in Australia. We had certainly not spent huge sums on sending our children abroad to see this day.”

According to Atul Malhotra of Bright Overseas Consultancy that has offices in various towns of Punjab, presently over 90,000 Indian students are studying in Australia, of which around 37,000 are from Punjab, and their government is earning huge revenues from them.

“In most of the cases, students are going there to earn permanent residence status as it is quite easy there if we compare it with other developed countries,” he said.

Malhotra said the most popular courses are in hotel management, hospitality, accounting, commercial cooking and hair-dressing. “These courses do not guarantee a job but certainly facilitate the students gaining easy permanent residence status,” he said.

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