The Gurudwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha at Craigieburn in Victoria has confirmed that the offending banners put up at its entrance recently were neither authorised nor endorsed by its management.
The giant anti-India posters and flags with Khalistan logos caused much outrage within the Indian community in Australia.
Depicting massive photographs of Sikh activist Deep Sidhu, they included the words “India kills Sikhs” and “End Hindu Fascism”.
Social media indignation largely centred around the fact that a place of religious worship was blatantly propogating an extreme view, supporting a movement that is regarded as terrorist in nature, and causing division in the community.
It prompted a complaint to the police and at least one person to write to ministers in charge and local parliamentarians.
Gaurav S copied Indian Link in as he emailed Ros Spence (Victoria’s Minister for Multicultural Affairs), Maria Vamvakinou (Fed MP for Calwell), Richard Wynne (State MP for Richmond) and Frank McGuire (State MP for Broadmeadows).
In his letter he described the act as “vilifying another religion”.
“By visiting and supporting the gurudwara with funding, you are supporting such acts.”
Speaking with Indian Link, Gaurav said he has been a frequent visitor at the Craigieburn gurudwara, even joining in at sewa (community service).
“Yet this incident did not sit right with me,” he said. “It smacks of instigating disharmony. Who gave permission for the banners to go up?”
We put that very same question to Gurvinder Singh, Gurudwara spokesperson.
“Yes there were posters put up at one of our four entrances,” Singh said in reply. “They were large, and the intent was that they could be seen from the highway. The banners were not endorsed by the gurudwara or its management. We did not authorise them or give permission for them to be put up.”
He added, “We didn’t see them. They were up maybe for about a maximum of an hour and a half. In this time photos and videos were made and circulated. We saw photos the next day.”
Another Gurudwara spokesperson confirmed this separately.
“No, we never gave permission for this event,” he told Indian Link, requesting anonymity. “We had no connection to this event, or the message that went out about it beforehand.”
Is it true that the police came to the Gurudwara premises?
“Yes that’s true. They took our statements. It’s usual practice when someone makes a complaint.”
Gurvinder Singh did acknowledge though that an event was to be held at the Gurudwara to mark the passing in India of Sikh activist Deep Sidhu.
An actor and activist, Sidhu was facing trial for allegedly causing violence at the Republic Day event last year at Delhi’s Red Fort. On 15 Feb this year, he died in a car accident 30 kilometres from the Singhu Border, the epicentre of the country’s farmers’ protests.
“Our event was intended as a short ceremony in remembrance. But it did not go ahead. This was because a car rally was organised instead by another group, and not in consultation with the gurudwara. It turned out to be quite large, and we were left to witness it as mere spectators.”
The other group, he seemed to indicate, was the group behind the large posters. It appears that there was a divide in terms of how the remembrance ceremony should be held, with one faction in favour of a more vociferous event.
“Look, there are sentiments within the Sikh community about events such as the 1984 attack on Harmandar Sahib and the genocide that followed, which have not been officially recognised,” Singh said. “Add to this the recent events in India regarding the farmers’ protest. Time time pe yeh sentiments reference hote hain (these feelings are brought up now and again). At the same time, we have those outside our community that do hold anti-Sikh sentiments, such as when they celebrate the attack on the sacred Golden Temple. There are all nature of ideologies in our society, and many different sentiments, and we must try to accommodate them all, as long as they are expressed peacefully.”
He went on, “The gurudwara by definition, is an open place; it is a place for everyone. We welcome everyone who comes to our door – no one is checked or stopped. And this includes people with differing political ideologies. We welcome Australian political leaders from all sides, for example. And yes, amongst those who come to us, are some people with hard core views. But there is a certain maryada (code of conduct) that all our visitors must follow. Us din hua, aur hum control nahin kar paaye. Woh ek dum se aaye, express kar ke, ek dum se chale gaye. (It happened that particular day, and we couldn’t control it. The entire episode took place very swiftly).”
Will the gurudwara take action against those involved?
“We are deep in discussions at the moment, consulting within our own community,” Gurvinder Singh offered. “Another important issue we are considering is how we can prevent such incidents in the future.”
The Craigieburn Gurudwara has performed yeoman service in the community in recent years, reaching out to help the needy during the bushfires, during COVID, and in the care of international students. Substantial contributions were also made to help those in India during the COVID devastation in 2021.
It is clear that the Gurudwara must draw the line somewhere to keep at bay unsavoury – even nefarious – elements within its own congregation.
The Khalistani movement is known for its secessionist tendencies with support coming in from the diaspora.
“We don’t want to see Australia become another Canada, where we know this movement is trying to influence government,” Gaurav S observed.
At least four sympathetic platforms are featured on the Government of India’s list of terrorist organisations. One of these is also declared as a terrorist organisation by the European Union.
In Australia, the Khalistani movement has not been widely recognised or condemned in parliament as an extremist organisation. Crikey called it a ‘now dormant sikh separatist movement’.
With inputs by Bageshri Savyasachi
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