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Aus PM urges Indians to remain calm after toddler's death

March 06, 2010 12:03 IST

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Victorian Premier John Brumby have urged the Indian community to remain calm and not link three-year-old Gurshan Singh's death to attacks on Indian students and taxi drivers in Melbourne.

Gurshan's body was found dumped by the side of a road in a Melbourne suburb, six hours after he disappeared from a relative's home in Lalor on Thursday.

The tragedy came a day after Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the safety of Indian students and strengthening trade and economic ties between the two countries.

Prime Minister Rudd said if it was murder, people need to pause and introspect about its implications on Australia's already strained relations with India.

"The death of any little child causes everyone in this country to stop, pause, think, reflect," The Herald Sun quoted Rudd as saying.

"If this is a case of murder, there is nothing worse than the brutal murder of a little child. The authorities are investigating it and we have every confidence the authorities will get to the bottom of it," he added.

Victorian Premier Brumby said he found the case 'personally distressing', and urged the public not to jump to conclusions about any racial aspect to the crime.

He said the death was an unthinkable tragedy and expressed deep sorrow for the family and relatives.

"The most important thing is we find the cause of death and bring those responsible to justice," Brumby said.

"I'm not going to get into the Australia-India debate. It is about mourning the death of a three-year-old child, and the loss of a child so young is a terrible, terrible tragedy that I find personally distressing," he said.

India's Consul-General in Melbourne Anita Nayar said she was in constant touch with investigators, but declined to say what they had told her. 

Meanwhile, the grieving parents of the boy, Harpreet Kaur Channa and her husband Harjit Singh Channa, were taken to the Coroner's Court at 11 am to see the body of their child Gurshan.

The couple, who were interrogated on Friday by the Victorian police for five hours in connection with the death of the child, were accompanied by Indian consulate officials to the morgue. They spent an hour with the body of their child, local media reports said. The couple was taken to the Coroner's Court from a relative's home in the Melbourne suburb of Thomastown.

The police are hopeful that further examination of the body, including toxicology, could provide some leads, after an autopsy failed to identify the cause of the death of the boy. A number of neighbours continued to drop flowers and toys at the boy's house to pay homage and express grief over his death.

The toddler's body was found by a council worker on the side of a road in Melbourne's northern suburbs six hours after he disappeared from the family home on Thursday. The body was found fully clothed in blue jeans and a grey top, said the police.

Gurshan was in Australia on a holiday with his family and was due to return to India later this week. The toddler's mother rang the police after he had been missing for 45 minutes, prompting a massive search involving more than 15 police units, the dog squad and air wing. The body was found 30 kms away from the boy's home.

The family had arrived in Australia from India on January 9, planning to stay. However, they decided to leave the next week as the boy's father could not get a job.

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