The Indian High Commissioner to Australia, Ajay Gondane, was recently prevented from entering the Tarneit Gurudwara Sahib in Melbourne by a group of protesters. Gondane, who was on an official trip to Melbourne, had made the visit as he was keen to visit religious places in the area.
The diplomat was, however, stopped from entering the gurudwara on Nov. 18, SBS Punjabi reported. The protesters argued with Gondane for a long time at the entrance. After he was subjected to several minutes of protests and slogans that asked to “free Jaggi”, he was let inside the gurudwara to pay obeisance. He left after taking his prasad. The area has a dense population of the Indian diaspora.
“This is an extremely unfortunate incident,” Gunwant Kaur, the secretary of the gurudwara management committee, was quoted by the publication. She added that there was a group of around 25-30 protesters, who started arriving at the gurudwara from 7.15 am onwards. “They were very loud and aggressive, and had surrounded Indian Consul General Manika Jain, who had arrived earlier,” she said. “They created quite a scene and crossed all limits. They were extremely disruptive and were trying to intimidate the Gurudwara committee members as well.”
Kaur added: “There are much better ways to protest. This is certainly not the way. These people didn’t behave like Sikhs are meant to, and have brought a bad name to the entire community.”
A video of the incident has been doing the rounds on social media, in which Gondane is seen trying to reason with them. In the video, protesters can be seen telling Gondane that he could enter the premises as a devotee but “not as a representative of the Indian government.”
A protester can be clearly heard in the video saying that no Indian official would be allowed to enter any gurudwara in Australia.
“ We were protesting the arrest of 47 Sikh youths in Punjab in recent times, the latest example being the arrest of Jagtar Singh Johal who was in India for his own wedding,” Harkirat Singh Ajnoha, one of the protesters seen in the video, told SBS Punjabi. “We want to raise awareness about the human rights violations in Punjab and recognition of the Sikh genocide. Although everyone is welcome at any Gurudwara, but we won’t let officials use their visit to influence our youngsters from our stages.”
The reference to Jaggi pertains to Jagtar Singh Johal, a British Sikh who is in Punjab Police’s custody. While the police say Johal is allegedly linked to killings of Hindu leaders in the state, there has been uproar at many places among the community over alleged torture he has faced while in custody.
Gondane told the publication that his purpose is to foster a sense of community and brotherhood. “There is no question of ‘us’ and ‘them’. It’s all about ‘we’. We are all together as one community,” he said. “If anyone has any grievance, they can bring it to me and I’ll be happy to look into these.”