New Delhi: Down Under, the radical noise for Khalistan took an aggressive turn beginning this year with close to half-a-dozen Hindu temples being attacked in quick succession, leaving the Indian community, which forms 3 per cent of the country’s population, enraged, scared and dismayed.
In the month of January alone, between 12 to 23, three Hindu temples in Melbourne were defaced with anti-India graffiti and pro-Bhindranwale slogans by Khalistani supporters, and later, temple priests received threatening calls to raise ‘Khalistan Zindabad’ slogans.
While India registered a strong protest with the Australian government asking it to take swift action and bring perpetrators to the book, the attacks have continued with shameless impunity — most recently — with the forced shutdown of the Indian consulate in Brisbane due to Khalistani rabble-rousers.
An alleged inaction by Australian security agencies and state police authorities, emboldened Khalistan supporters, who called Sydney Murugan Temple’s director and threatened him to raise pro-Khalistan slogans.
The attack on Indians with sticks at the Federation Square in Melbourne during a referendum call in January by the banned Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), came despite the community in Australia informing the police about the planned protest.
Top Australian leaders like Andrew Giles and Tim Watts were quick to condemn the attack on Indians, which the Australian media reported as “a brawl”, saying they are “appalled” and “concerned”.
A hardening of stance against the anti-India elements in the country came just ahead of a bilateral meeting between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Anthony Albanese earlier this month when High Commissioner Barry O’Farrell said that the “so-called” Khalistan referendum call has no legal standing in Australia.
Albanese said that Australia won’t tolerate any extreme actions and attacks that took place in religious buildings, and there was no place for such action against Hindu temples while addressing a press meet in New Delhi.
Following this, the Victoria Police on March 20 released images of six men suspected to be involved in the Khalistan referendum incident. It had earlier arrested two men and issued them a penalty notice for riotous behaviour.
Sikhs number over 210,000 and account for 0.8 per cent of the Australia’s population as of 2021, forming the country’s fifth-largest and fastest-growing religious group
A small but influential number of Sikhs support the idea of Khalistan, but politically, it has found little support with Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong saying Australia “respects India’s sovereignty”.
“There are politicians across various major and minor parties, mostly backbenchers (not prominent), and independent MPs who are showing support to Sikhs – not Khalistan movement. SFJ is presenting it as support to Khalistan,” Dr Amit Sarwal, academic and senior Australian journalist, told IANS.
“I am sure that given some leaders’ knowledge regarding Indian and Khalistan movements history they have no idea what these thugs stand for,” Sarwal said, adding that the Khalistanis are trying to ride on the goodwill generated in Sikhs in Australia.
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