Wednesday, January 18, 2023
MELBOURNE: Some 2,000+ vehicles participated in the ‘Khalistan Rally’ which started from the Coburg suburb to downtown Melbourne and continued for several hours.
The rally aimed to glorify Indira Gandhi’s assassins, marking the 34th martyrdom ceremony of Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh who were hanged on January 6, 1989, for assassinating the Indian prime minister at the time in a bid to avenge Operation Blue Star against the holiest Sikh shrine — the Golden Temple of Amritsar.
In the rally, cars and trucks carried life-size posters of the two assassins along with posters of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a Sikh religious leader and political revolutionary who campaigned for autonomy for the Sikh state of Punjab. The organisers of the rally also carried the announcement of “The Last Battle. Khalistan Referendum. Voting January 29, Melbourne”.
The rally was organised by the international advocacy group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) to galvanise the community for the upcoming launch of the Khalistan Referendum in Australia on January 29.
Ahead of the January 15th rally, the pictures of Satwant and Kehar on Khalistan referendum banners irked the Australian Hindu community, and Hindus reportedly vandalised the banners, defacing the three prominent faces of the Khalistan Movement. This caused a strong counter-uproar in the Sikh community, which lodged vandalism and hate complaints with the Australian authorities.
It must be noted that India has repeatedly lodged vehement reservations with the Australian government over the Khalistan Referendum voting; however, the Australian government after looking into the matter did not take any steps to ban the ongoing Khalistan Referendum campaign and scheduled the voting being organised by the SFJ in Melbourne.
Dozens of local Sikh leaders, who condemned the human rights abuses of Sikhs in India, addressed the rally. They said that the Indian government was involved in the worst-ever abuses of human rights against Sikhs and the only solution for the Sikh population of India was to have a free homeland called Khalistan.
They said that India was involved in running campaigns against thousands of Sikhs activists at home and abroad for supporting the Khalistan campaign.
Tensions have been building up in Melbourne ahead of the Khalistan Referendum voting.
The social media posts showing banners that glorified the assassins of the former Indian prime minister that started circulating on January 8 greatly irked the Australian Hindu Community which approached Anthony Albenes’ government, demanding the banning of referendum voting slated for January 29.
The Australian Hindu Media shared the poster on Twitter. It read, “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?”
However, Australian parliamentarians from cross parties expressed support for the Sikh community. Rob Mitchell MP, the federal member of McEwen, said in a letter that he was disappointed by the 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 views 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 speaking on the articles said that The Australian had on 6 December 2022 published an article that inappropriately allowed an anonymous representative of the foreign Indian government to attack the Sikh community in Australia.
Shoebridge 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.”