MELBOURNE: Tensions within the Indian community have risen over a spate of graffiti attacks on pro-Khalistan banners and Sikh figures who symbolise Khalistan activism, including revered Shaheed Bhindranwale.
The Khalistan Referendum voting is set to take place on Sunday, January 29 in the Federation Square but ahead of the voting, organised by Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), there are reports of several attacks on banners and posters being used for the Khalistan Referendum and attacks on posters of Sikh figures who were hanged by the Indian authorities for supporting Khalistan.
Sikh campaigners have accused the Indian government of sponsoring the attacks on the Khalistan Referendum posters as well as Sikh figures to incite troubles.
The Indian Hindu community said the ISKCON Hare Krishna Temple in Albert Park, Melbourne, was defaced with anti-Hindu slogans with graffiti saying “Hindustan Murdabad”, “Sant Bhindrawale is Martyr” and “Khalistan Zindabad”.
It said a similar attack had taken place on the Shri Shiva Vishnu Temple in Carrum Downs and the Shree Swaminarayan Temple in Mill Park.
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, general counsel for Sikhs for Justice, said the group had no information that the recent acts of vandalism were linked to the Khalistan Referendum. The Sikh leader released CCTV footage showing vandalism of Khalistan banners in areas of Melbourne.
“Through this referendum, we aim to quantify the will of the Sikh people on the question of Khalistan and debunk the Indian government’s narrative that demand for Khalistan is unpopular and subscribed to by a small and fringe faction of Sikhs,” he said.
“Through the referendum, we wish the world to know that Khalistan is a political opinion and not terrorism and advocating for Khalistan through referendum is peaceful, democratic and non-violent.”
Pannun said an overwhelming number of Sikhs had been forced to flee their homeland due to persecution at the hands of Indian authorities. He said that the Indian government has routinely used scare tactics to divert attention from the Khalistan activism in diaspora communities.
The New York based attorney and campaigner said that the Punjab independence referendum has been named after Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh, who were executed for their involvement in the assassination of Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi in October 1984.
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said that the SFJ aims to use the results from votes around the world to pressursie the United Nations into recognising a separate Sikh state called Khalistan.
He said there was evidence which showed that the Indian government was carrying out attacks against Sikhs in the Australian city to stop Sikhs from taking part in a peaceful voting process.
The video released by Pannun showed men vandalising Shaheed Bhindranwale and Khalistan posters. Pannun said in his video statement: “For the last one month, these Hindu supremacists backed by the Modi regime are vandalising Shaheed Bhindranwale and Khalistan Referendum banners.”
Pannun said that the men linked to vandalism on holy Sikh figures were from hardline Hindutva groups, backed by India, defacing the posters and pictures.
He continued in the video: “This Indian regime is trying to use the old terror tactics and calling pro-Khalistan Sikhs as terrorists. Remember Modi and remember Hindus in Australia: this is not 1990 that you will label pro-Khalistan Sikh as terrorists and they will go home. These Hindu nationalists in Australia are the offsprings of those who committed genocide of Sikhs, who distributed sweets when Indira Gandhi attacked the Golden Temple. These men are offsprings of those extremist Hindutva elements. The SFJ believes in ballot, not bullets, unlike this Indian regime which has used bombs and bullets to silence Sikhs. Indian regime, you have failed in Canada and you will fail in Australia.”
Tensions mounted locally around three months ago when banners appeared across Melbourne and a car rally on January 15 marked the 34th martyrdom day of Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh, who were hanged on January 6, 1989 for assassinating the former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to avenge Operation Blue Star against holiest Sikh shrine, the Golden Temple of Amritsar.
Thousands of Sikhs, who have migrated from Indian Punjab to Australia, have been seen campaigning for the Khalistan
Referendum over the last two months and they have held several events
attracting thousands of Sikhs to these events, calling for a secessionist breakaway state for Sikhs in India.
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