Balesh Dhankhar case: Community leaders weigh in

“The image and reputation of the Indian community in Australia has been tarnished”

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Late 2014, as India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his visit to Australia, the first by an Indian PM in nearly three decades, Balesh Dhankhar was a busy man.

As an integral part of the Indian Australian Community Forum (IACF) which was founded overnight to organise the prime minister’s community reception, Dhankhar was quite the man of the moment, in demand by various sections of the community, including us in the media.

Fast forward to 2023, as the same frenzy envelops the community to welcome back a worshipped prime minister, Dhankhar is locked up in jail, condemned by a community that was in his thrall in his perceived closeness to the ruling BJP and the Indian prime minister.

Followed by a much-publicised sexual offences trial, Balesh was found guilty only days ago of deceiving, drugging, and filming young Korean women as he raped them.

Bursting into the limelight following Mr Modi’s 2014 visit, Balesh would go on take his organisation the Overseas Friends of BJP to some heights, launching in other states etc, as well as participating in other community organisations like the Hindu Council of Australia, representing them at mainstream events and undertaking speaking roles.

Today the condemnation at his downfall is universal.

Balesh Dhankhar
(Source: Facebook)

“What Balesh Dhankhar had done was grossly and morally wrong,” Dr. Yadu Singh, spokesperson of the Federation of Indian Associations of NSW told Indian Link. “I strongly condemn him. I am glad that the court has found him guilty of sexual assaults of five women. He should be jailed for a long time for these heinous crimes.”

He added, “The image and reputation of the Indian community in Australia has been tarnished by these demonic activities of Mr Dhankhar. He was the leader of several Indian community organisations in Sydney and was the founding president of OFBJP Australia, which is affiliated with the BJP. To my knowledge, the Indian community in Australia is happy that the court has convicted him and is going to sentence him to hopefully a long-term jail punishment.”

Sue Advani, President SEVA International Inc, told Indian Link, “The Australian Indian community is deeply shocked by this incident. While no community or culture is immune to such a wanton and disgraceful crime, it is a very disturbing and uncomfortable feeling.”

She added, “What is sad is that the victims kept their ordeal hidden due to the culture of shame leaving the perpetrator to continue to abuse others. As a community we should raise awareness and educate and encourage our girls so that should they ever find themselves victimised they do not hide behind the stigma of shame and come forward and report the crime and seek help straight away. Sexual violence against women is a heinous crime, I hope the perpetrator is given the harshest sentence to send a message that such criminals will be found and prosecuted, and victims will get justice.”

Dr Sunil Vyas, President of the United Indian Associations Inc, weighed in, “Balesh Dhankhar carried out vile acts without any remorse or concern for his victims – who include his wife and children too – all of whose lives will be permanently damaged. Such criminal acts can be found across all strata of society, races and ethnicities. Disturbingly many comments across various media have been focusing on his Indian origin. Dhankhar’s acts should be condemned and he will face the consequences through the Australian justice system. However tarnishing a whole community by the reprehensible acts of one criminal is uncalled for.”

Members of the IACF including Balesh Dhankhar (standing) along with Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi during his 2014 Australia visit (Source: Supplied)

The IACF, now reborn as the India Australia Diaspora Foundation, will likely not be hampered in its mission to present Version 2.0 of a mega Modi reception, despite its star member from the original team so thoroughly out of favour.

Yet we would have hoped to see a comment from the Hindu Council of Australia (HCA) distancing itself from the man. Unconfirmed reports have claimed that it did indeed distance itself from him soon after the earliest allegations erupted, but no official line has been forthcoming.

It is true that no organisation can vouch for the character of their officepersons, or indeed their activities outside of their organisational roles. Yet a note from the HCA would have been welcomed, assuaging a community hurting from online abuse generalising from this incident, and sending a message out to the mainstream that we will not stand for criminal behaviour of this kind.

Read More: Ex Friends of BJP chief Balesh Dhankhar found guilty of multiple sexual offences

Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

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