(UPDATED) Vishal Jood case: concerns raised ahead of court appearance

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Update (12 August): Vishal Jood appeared before Parramatta Local Court on Thursday and entered a not-guilty plea on one of his charges. However, the case was adjourned until a later date in January 2022 without bail.

Update (1 July): Arrested Indian national Vishal Jood was due to appear in court today July 1. However, Parramatta Local Court informed Indian Link today that the Jood case has been adjourned until 12 August, with bail refused.

Update (30 June): One day before Vishal Jood is to appear before Parramatta Local Court, concerns have been raised by sections of the diaspora regarding the mainstream narrative of his arrest.

24-year-old Jood has been in police custody since April for alleged involvement in a series of gang attacks in Sydney’s west. He is to face charges that have been described as alleged “hate crimes.”

In an open letter to Sen Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australia-based social justice advocacy group The Humanism Project have expressed concerns regarding the innocence campaigns launched for Jood in parts of India, Australia, and most recently Canada.

“Our concerns are with the narrative being spun by certain factions within the Indian diaspora in Australia, as well as from India. These individuals hold firm the belief that Jood is innocent of any crimes, and is currently being held under inhumane conditions for ‘protecting the Indian Flag and Identity’. These claims are being parroted across social media and are being amplified by right-wing Hindu-nationalist entities in India and in Australia,” the letter reads.

humanism project letter
A screenshot of the open letter by The Humanism Project

Noting that meetings had been scheduled between Indian ministers and Dr S Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister of India, to intervene in the case, the group ask for Jood to face the Australian courts for the charges and “not be allowed to return to India without justice being served.”

They argue the campaigns attempt to paint Jood in a positive light, and that he was, in fact, arrested for his targeted assault of three Sikh men in Sydney.

According to the letter, The Humanism Project believe “a commitment to justice from the Australian government would go a long way to supporting and showing solidarity with the Sikh community, and wider Indian Diaspora community of Australia.”

Since April, certain Indian media outlets reported that Jood was denied medications in jail, assaulted by other prisoners, and not allowed to meet his legal representation. There has been no evidence to support these claims.

In a virtual meeting with the media on 24 June, an official spokesperson from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs confirmed they were in touch with Australian authorities.

“I know that consular access to Vishal Jood was granted on June 17th. And our high commission is in touch with the Australian authorities,” Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson, stated.

Last week, Indian Link reached out to the High Commission of India in Canberra to inquire whether their office had received any official requests regarding the Vishal Jood case.

The High Commission refused to comment due to the case being sub-judice.

25 June: Vishal Jood, an Indian national arrested for alleged involvement in a series of gang attacks in Sydney’s west, has caught the attention of Harayana’s Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. Multiple demonstrations by Vishal Jood supporters in the north-Indian state prompted the CM to tweet about raising the matter with External Affairs Minister, Dr S Jaishankar.

For the last week, members of the Ror community in Karnal and Kurukshetra districts of Haryana have been marching in the streets to demand Vishal Jood’s release.

The community reportedly pressured ruling party leaders to put the issue forward to CM Manohar Lal who then brought it up with Dr Jaishankar.

Indian daily Hindustan Times reported that a statement from the Haryana CM’s office said that 24-yr-old Jood was “innocent” and was jailed following a “conspiracy from anti-national forces”.

Jood’s supporters also insist that Jood was framed by “Khalistani extremists”.

Indian Link reached out to the High Commission of India in Canberra to inquire whether their office had received any official requests regarding the Vishal Jood case.

The High Commission refused to comment due to the case being sub-judice.

Vishal Jood case springs up in Brampton, Canada

Meanwhile, the high-octane Vishal Jood saga has made its way to diasporic communities in Canada, a dire depiction that tensions are running high within the community across the globe.

In a thread of videos on Twitter, Jood supporters were reportedly rallying in the suburb of Brampton when they encountered opposition from Sikh community members. The two sides can be seen having heated interactions which then prompted local law enforcement to intervene.

Khalistan flags, cricket and baseball bats were also visible in the video thread; elements that affirm the Jood case as a catalyst for the growing (and seemingly violent) divide within the Indian diaspora.

It has become increasingly apparent that unprecedented global connectivity has led to a rising trend of domestic Indian politics playing out in diasporic communities – a trend that cannot be ignored and one to keep a close eye on.

‘Indian nationalist’ Vishal Jood was arrested by NSW police in April after an investigation revealed his alleged connection to a series of targeted attacks on members of the Sikh community.

Jood will appear before Parramatta Local Court next Thursday, July 1 to face charges that have been described as alleged “hate crimes”.

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