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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Tensions rise between Sikh and Hindu communities in Australia over Khalistan movement

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Australia has witnessed several incidents of violence and vandalism between members of the Sikh and Hindu communities in recent weeks, as a global campaign for an independent Sikh state of Khalistan in India’s Punjab region gains momentum.

The campaign is led by a US-based group called Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), which has been banned by the Indian government for anti-India activities. SFJ has organized non-binding and unofficial “referenda” in favor of establishing a new state called Khalistan in several Western countries, including Australia.

The latest referendum was held on Sunday at a construction site in Minchinbury in Sydney’s western suburbs, where some Sikh community members gathered to cast their votes. The event was met with protests from dozens of people from Sydney’s Indian community, many draped in Indian flags and chanting anti-Khalistan slogans.

The police had to intervene to keep the two groups apart, and arrested two of the protesters for possessing knives. Later that day, videos posted on social media showed confrontations in the suburb of Harris Park, a major Indian Australian community hub near Parramatta.

The clashes in Sydney followed similar incidents in Melbourne, where another referendum was held at Federation Square on January 31. Two men were arrested for riotous behavior after a brawl broke out between Sikh and Hindu groups in the city’s CBD.

The Khalistan movement has sparked anger and resentment among some Indian Australians, who accuse the SFJ of stirring up hate and running an agenda aimed at splintering India. Some Indian politicians have also alleged that Pakistan’s government is funding the movement to destabilize its neighbor.

However, the SFJ and its supporters argue that Sikhs need their own homeland because they face increasing political repression and discrimination in India and that they are simply exercising their democratic rights in Australia by holding the events.

The Council of Khalistan president Bakhshish Singh Sandhu said the Sikh separatist movement was fully in line with the United Nations framework, and that Sikhs had the right to self-determination.

Prominent religious figures from both Sikh and Hindu communities have called for calm and unity, saying that the unrest is not representative of either religious group. They have urged their followers to respect each other’s beliefs and avoid violence.

The Australian authorities are closely monitoring the situation and have appealed for peace and harmony among the diverse communities.

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