By Jitarth Jai Bharadwaj, Amit Sarwal, and Pallavi Jain
Senior Australian officials working within the internal security apparatus have scrambled a core group to look into the concerns raised by Indian government officials about growing Khalistani divisive activities in multiple capital cities.
The Australia Today understands this core group is focusing on evidence gathering at the movement to finalise an action plan in a meeting due before the Christmas holidays.
Earlier in a meeting with Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Home Affairs Minister Claire O’Neil, the Indian government officials presented a document that included The Australia Today’s coverage of Khalistani propaganda in Australia and accounts of concerns of the Indian Australian community members.
Officials close to the developments who do not want to be named for security reasons told The Australia Today, “Allegations of some overseas players entering into Australia and running a malicious campaign with elements of possibly violent past are very concerning to us.” They added:
“We respect freedom of speech but now it looks like something is not right.”
The Australia Today can reveal that the Department of Home Affairs is examining the visa conditions of some Khalistani overseas players who are actively involved in a proposed Khalistan referendum to be held in Melbourne.
The Australia Today also understands that question of religious vilification will also be examined by the core group involved in evidence gathering as Khalistani propaganda social media accounts in a changed strategy are widely and deliberately targeting the Australian Hindu community.
In the meeting, Indian government officials advised the Albanese government in strong terms that this could lead to violence toward Indian Australians.
One of the Khalistani propaganda posters circulating on social media contains, “The Last Battle to kill Indian-Hindutva system” with pictures of Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh.
Who are Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh?
Satwant Singh was one of the bodyguards, along with Beant Singh, who assassinated the Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi at her New Delhi residence on 31 October 1984.
Satwant Singh and his accomplice Beant Singh, both emptied their guns into Mrs Gandhi as she walked to her office from an adjoining bungalow. Both assailants were shot in a subsequent scuffle however, Beant Singh died and Satwant Singh survived.
Kehar Singh was tried and executed for conspiracy in the plot of the Indira Gandhi assassination, carried out by Satwant Singh and Beant Singh. An important point to note is that Indian PM’s assassin Beant Singh was the nephew of Kehar Singh.
Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh were convicted for the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and were hanged in the Indian capital Delhi’s Tihar Central Jail.
Another poster with Australian phone numbers accuses Hindu mobs of killing an infant of a Sikh Army officer”
A representative of the Hindu Council of Australia who does not want to be named for security reasons told The Australia Today, “Concerned community members have reached out to them as they live around the route of the proposed Khalistan Referendum Car rally.”
“Tens of thousands of Hindu families living in Melbourne’s western suburbs of Tarneit are scared of not only their wellbeing but also their properties.”
Ravi Prakash Gupta (name changed), a resident of Tarneit who works as a registered nurse, told The Australia Today, “I and my friend built our houses next to each other just 500 meters from Tarneit Gurudwara.” He added:
“My family is so scared that I have decided to go to work and take them to another friend’s place in Southeastern Melbourne to make them feel safe.”
In November 2022, members of the Indian-Australian community in Victoria were left shocked and deeply disturbed to see Khalistani flags, booklets and T-shirts distributed and displayed at the Nagar Kirtan/Humanity Walk organised by the Victorian Sikh Gurduaras Council (VSGC).
Sukhjeet Kaur (name chnaged), a Sikh herself, who had been a victim of Khalistan terror told The Australia Today “I thought we have left the dark memories of Khalistani terrorism behind us but on Saturday I felt like I am back to those ugly days.” She observed:
“I froze when my five-year-old granddaughter was handed over the Khalistan flag at the Humanity walk.”
The Australia Today exclusively reported on Khalistan propaganda at display during this Victorian government-funded Sikh festival which left members of the diapora fearing Khalistani terrorism knocking on their doors. The Victorian Minister for Workplace Safety Ingrid Stitt, Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp and the Federal department of Home Affairs’ regional Director for community engagement were present at the Nagar Kirtan while Khalistani propaganda was spread.
A highly placed person who is in a decision-making position with VSGC but doesn’t want to be named told The Australia Today the committee categorically rejected this proposal to host Khalistani supporters and told them to keep divisive agendas away from VSGC’s program.
These Khalistani supporters are predominantly members of an American organisation ‘Sikhs for Justice’ (SFJ) which calls for an armed struggle against India. There are several people who have flown into Australia from USA and Canada to control and run the so-called Khalistan Referendum program to be held in January 2023. It is important to point out that the Australian Border force’s (ABF) entry conditions do not allow a foreigner to run any such campaign on Australian soil.
Earlier in June 2022, members of the Indian-Australian community were left upset to see the Australian Defence Force marquee at the Griffith Sikh Games where Khalistani banners, posters and flags were displayed.
The Australia Today conducted an exclusive investigation and reported that members of the Indian-Australian community pleaded that the Australian government must “understand the seriousness of such participation alongside Khalistani propagandists.”
Australian Defence Force spokesperson in a statement conceded that they have identified an internal process issue and are working to address it. It noted: “While the attendance of the ADF personnel at this event was well-intentioned, it has identified some internal process issues around attendance at community events and a requirement for further awareness training, both of which are being addressed.”
The Australia Today would like to categorically state that we in no manner suggest that the ADF personnel who attended the Sikh Games in Griffith support or endorse in any way matters associated with the ‘Khalistan’ separatist movement.
Based on The Australia Today’s ground-breaking investigative reporting, India raised the issue of Australian Defence personnel attending an event that was used for Khalistani propaganda. Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said:
“We specifically got to know about an incident in Australia. We have raised this issue with the Government of Australia…we have taken this up with the Australian Government…there was something related to a few of their soldiers, talks are going on on the issue.”
India was rocked by Khalistan terrorism through the 1980s. Thousands of Hindus and Sikhs were killed in the Indian state of Punjab by terrorists who were allegedly supported by Pakistan’s intelligence agency the ISI. The Khalistani terrorists wanted a separate state for the Sikhs carved out only from Indian Punjab leaving no one in doubt about who was pulling the strings.
It is no surprise that Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, General Counsel to SFJ, in his recent statement has dedicated the Khalistan Referendum voting centre in Melbourne to Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh – the notorious assassins of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
In one of the deadliest terror attacks in aviation history before 9/11, 329 people were killed by Khalistani terrorists on Air India flight 182 which was flying from Montreal to Mumbai via London and New Delhi on 22nd June 1985. The terrorists planted a bomb on the flight which blew up mid-air while flying from Montreal to London killing everyone on board. Among those killed were 268 Canadian citizens, 27 British citizens and 24 Indian citizens.
Ujjal Dossanjh, former British Columbia Premier, a Sikh himself, was attacked and viciously beaten for his opposition to Khalistani extremism in 1985, in the parking lot of his office in Vancouver, Canada. He was targeted again in 1999, while he was a member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia in Canada when his constituency office was attacked. Mr Dossanjh tweeted in 2018:
“Indian Sikhs have a country: They call it India. Punjab has been India for untold centuries until it was cut into two to make Pakistan.”
Countries like the US and Canada have deemed Khalistani separatist groups like the Babbar Khalsa International and International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) as terrorist organisations.
In recent years there have been reports of violent intra-Sikh fightings among members of Gurudwaras in countries like Canada and Australia over alleged ‘power struggles’ on the behest of Khalistani propagandists.
India and Australia now have a free trade agreement, Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA), and the security ties between the two nations have also strengthened. In 2023, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Sydney for a meeting of QUAD leaders. Prior to this, India will host the QUAD foreign ministers’ meet in New Delhi as dates are being worked out.
The question really is what will Australia’s security and intelligence establishment choose to do given the seriousness of the Khalistani menace not just for its strategic ally India but also for security considerations for Indian Australians.