MELBOURNE: After The Australian newspaper attacked the pro-Khalistan activism of Sikhs in Australia and linked it with acts of terrorism, several Australian parliamentarians have come out to express solidarity with the local Sikh community which is gearing up for Khalistan Referendum voting in Melbourne on January 29, 2023.
Ever since the Australian Phase of Khalistan Referendum was announced, a series of articles linking the pro-Khalistan activism with terrorism has been published in The Australian and were spiked up after massive ‘Genocide To Referendum’ car rally was carried out in Melbourne last week in which the 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots were highlighted with pictures of 13-days-old babies, who were killed by Hindu mobs in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination on October 31, 1984.
The Australian Sikh community pushed back against the undue and unsubstantiated criticism of their political activism as an attempt to muzzle their freedom of expression, resulting in parliamentarians from across party lines coming out to express support for the Sikh community, giving full backing to the right of Sikhs to peacefully express their political opinion through voting in Khalistan Referendum, organised by pro-Khalistan group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), in Melbourne next month.
Rob Mitchell MP, the federal member of McEwen, said in a letter that he was disappointed by recent articles in The Australian regarding the Sikh community in Melbourne.
“Be assured that these articles are in no way reflective of our view of the Sikh community. Australia values diversity and inclusion respects the right of individuals to engage in peaceful protest and supports the non-violent expression of views and beliefs. Freedom of expression is fundamental in open and democratic societies,” he said.
David Shoebridge, senator for New South Wales, and Senator Jordon Alexander Steele-John said The Australian newspaper on December 6, 2022, published an article which inappropriately allowed an anonymous representative of the foreign Indian government to attack the Sikh community in Australia.
“These attacks are not based on any material evidence. Our officers have heard from the Sikh community who understandably are offended and disturbed by the content of this article.
“The Sikh community has a proud history of positive peaceful community support, community outreach and proactive contributions to our multiracial community,” he said.
The senators said they will “continue to stand beside the Sikh community” to ensure that their rights are respected.
Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch said the comments published against Sikhs in the paper had “caused serious damage to the reputations of Sikh communities across Australia. The reporting of warnings raised by the Indian government doesn’t accurately reflect the reality of the situation here in Australia. The Sikh community in Australia is a peaceful and law-abiding group of people who have contributed a great deal to our local communities”.
The lawmaker said that Sikhs have long been persecuted by the Indian government and their security forces have deployed brutal and deplorable tactics, particularly in the 80s when tens of thousands of men and boys were murdered in the Sikh genocide.
“Recognition of this atrocity is still disputed by those responsible, and this trauma is still felt and carried by Sikhs. Despite the range of challenges Sikhs faced abroad and here at home in Australia, they have diligently contributed and volunteered for our communities – far more than most,” he added.
The lawmaker called on The Australian to apologise to the Sikh community for linking them to terrorism.
Several Sikh organisations across Australia have also criticised recent coverage by the said paper.
Published in the December 6 edition of the News Limited publication, the article carried the headline ‘India warns Anthony Albanese over Sikh separatists and terror links’.
The coverage referenced events that took place at the Nagar Kirtan [Harmony Walk] organised by the Victorian Sikh Gurdwara Council (VSGC) on November 19 in Melbourne when thousands of Sikhs gathered to raise demands for Khalistan and expressed support for the upcoming Khalistan Referendum event.
The Australian coverage also stated that the “emerging” Khalistani activities in Melbourne are making many in the Indian-Australian community “highly concerned”.
It provided statements from an anonymous Indian government official who said that the Modi government wanted to convey to its Australian counterparts that the Khalistan movement has ties to “prescribed terrorist organisations with a history of violent terrorism and lots of violence in the past”.
Sikh organisations including the Sikh Gurdwara Perth (Inc.), Australian Sikh Association Sydney, Victorian Sikh Gurdwara Council and Turbans 4 Australia have objected to the contents of the article. They have been joined by the parliamentarians who have expressed support for Sikhs and their demand for a free homeland.