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Temple vandalism shocks community

There are concerns that Sikh separatist groups have infiltrated Australia, and the call is out for this to be confronted head on

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In an incident which has shocked the Indian community in Australia, Melbourne’s Mill Park BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir was allegedly defaced by anti-India graffiti earlier this week.

The walls of the Hindu temple had slogans saying Hindustan Murdabad and with praises of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the controversial Sikh militant leader. Melbourne Temple vandalism 

In a press release, the BAPS Swaminarayan management has appealed for peace. “We are deeply saddened by the anti-India graffiti at the gates of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Mill Park, Melbourne, Australia by anti-social elements. The BAPS temple in Mill Park, like all temples of BAPS worldwide, is an abode of peace, harmony, equality, selfless service, and universal Hindu values,” said a spokesperson for the temple.

(Source: BAPS Swami Narayan Sanstha)

“At this time, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, has prayed for peace and unity and has appealed to all devotees and well-wishers to maintain peace. Let us all join in worldwide prayers, in private and at home, that God blesses and guides us all to continue to do good and think good of all,” he added.

Our thoughts are with Australia’s BAPS community at this moment, especially as they have been marking the 100th birth anniversary of their spiritual leader Pramukh Swami Maharaj.

Also read: BAPS Family celebrate Pramukh Swami’s life at Sydney Opera House

There are grave concerns amongst the community and the Australian government regarding the spread of Indian anti national Khalistani elements to Australia.  The Australian national newspaper reported in December 2022 that senior Indian government officials have raised the alarm over the growth of Sikh separatism in Australia and its links to terrorist groups in India, warning the Albanese government ministers of the movement’s propensity for violence. The report in the paper also attributed a source in the Indian government having concerns that the local Khalistani movement leaders were recruiting impressionable Indian Sikhs in Australia “who didn’t know what they were getting into.”

There are concerns that the Sikh separatist groups Baber Khalsa International, Khalistan Commando Force, Khalistan Zindabad Force and International Sikh Youth Federation which are all banned by India could be infiltrating Australia, as they have created a foothold in Canada.

A Khalistan referendum held in September 2022 in Brampton, Canada, clearly antagonised the Indian government who issued travel warnings to Indians travelling there. This saw a retaliation with Canada warning its own citizens about travelling to India.

Answering this issue raised by this journalist at a press conference in Canberra in Oct 2022, India’s External Affairs Minister Mr S Jaishankar had a blatant warning for Canada and other countries allowing these Indian anti-national groups to take roots. He said, “As to the Khalistan issue that you have raised, you know from time to time, we have engaged the Canadian government. I have myself engaged my counterpart on this issue and we have flagged the need to ensure that freedoms in a democratic society are not misused by forces which advocate violence and bigotry. So, it’s important for countries to understand today how democracies should function not only at home but also the responsibilities the democracies have to other democracies abroad.”

With the close relationship between India and Australia emerging, Australia needs to do more to stamp out these Indian anti-national elements in the community.

The senior Sikh associations and leaders in the community also need to take a stand and call out those who are bent on creating divisions.

The gurudwaras themselves have previously been implicated in allowing these divisionary forces to make themselves heard and seen.

They — and indeed the Sikh community as a whole — must take a stronger stand to distance themselves from such agents, even calling them out. If they do not, their good work within and outside of the community might well come to nought.

Ignoring this issue will not make it go away and it needs to be confronted head on.

Also read: Craigieburn Gurudwara clarifies it did not authorise offending banners

Pawan Luthra
Pawan Luthra
Pawan is the publisher of Indian Link and is one of Indian Link's founders. He writes the Editorial section.

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