MELBOURNE: The upcoming Khalistan Referendum in Australia has fuelled yet another controversy. The assassins of India’s former prime minister Indira Gandhi assassins are being glorified by placing banners across Melbourne, and a car rally to mark the 34th “martyrdom day” of the two assassins — Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh — has been planned for January 15.
An image of a poster of the Khalistan Referendum outside Plumpton Gurdwara has been widely shared across social media platforms. The poster has photographs of the two assassins, and reads “The Last Battle. Khalistan Referendum. Voting January 29, Melbourne”.
The two Sikhs were hanged on January 6, 1989, for assassinating Indira Gandhi in a bid to avenge Operation Blue Star against the holiest Sikh shrine — the Golden Temple of Amritsar.
The social media post has greatly irked the Australian Hindu community, which has since then approached Anthony Albenes’ government demanding that Khalistan Referendum voting slated for January 29, 2023, be banned.
The Khalistan Referendum banners, put up by Australian Sikhs across Melbourne, also carry pictures of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, along with the assassins of Gandhi.
These posters have reportedly been vandalised, and the pictures of the three ‘heroes’ have been defaced, resulting in a counter uproar by the Sikh community, which in turn has lodged complaints of vandalism and hate with the authorities.
It must be noted that India has repeatedly lodged its reservation over the Khalistan Referendum with the Australian government. However, the Australian government has not taken any steps to ban the ongoing Khalistan Referendum campaign. The voting to provide local Sikhs with an opportunity to show solidarity with the movement and condemn the Indian government-backed genocide of the Sikh nation in 1984s has been scheduled in Melbourne and was organised by the secessionist group “Sikhs For Justice” (SFJ).
Australian Hindu Media shared the poster on Twitter, with the caption: “Plumpton Gurdwara glorifies murderers of Indira Gandhi in this poster. How on earth does this further a charitable purpose, Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission?”
A sign of India’s growing discomfort with the traction the movement is gaining is that the Modi government warned Australia of the increasing presence of Khalistan activists in the country in December last year, after a Khalistan Referendum Rally was announced.
Indian media too complained vehemently that the Australian government has taken no concrete steps against the Referendum scheduled for January 29 by the SFJ.
Instead, last month several Australian parliamentarians expressed solidarity with the local Sikh community gearing up for Khalistan Referendum after The Australian attacked the pro-Khalistan activism of Sikhs and linked them with acts of terrorism.
Parliamentarians from multiple parties have expressed support for the Sikh community, giving full backing to the right of the Sikh community to peacefully express themselves through voting.
Rob Mitchell MP, federal member of McEwen, said in a letter he was disappointed by recent articles in The Australian regarding the Sikh community in Melbourne.
He said: “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.”
David Shoebridge, Senator for New South Wales, and Senator Jordon Steele-john said The Australian 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. He said: “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.”
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 don’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”.