By Jitarth Bharadwaj and Amit Sarwal
The 35th Australian Sikh Games (7-9 April 2023) was held in Runaway Bay, Gold Coast, Queensland with participants mesmerising over a hundred thousand spectators.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended best wishes to everyone associated with the Australian Sikh Games.
In his message, PM Modi said the games will help the Sikh community to showcase its sporting skills, competitive spirit and teamwork on a bigger platform.
“My best wishes for the 35th Australian Sikh Games. May the Games serve as an inspiration to motivate younger generations of Sikhs to excel in every sphere of life,”PM Modi said in his message.
Taking to its official Twitter handle, the High Commission of India in Canberra shared PM Modi’s message on the 35th Australian Sikh Games.
Australian National Sikh Sports and Cultural Council secretary Jagdeep Singh told local media that these games have grown so much since their inception in 1987 that the event had become one of the biggest Sikh festivals in the world outside India.
Mr Singh added:
“It means I can show my kids, who are born in Australia and have very limited access to our traditions in India.
In this, they can meet with other people from other states who can speak the same language, so it’s very important to us.”
This year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s message is a special highlight. PM Modi recalled his interaction with his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese during India vs Australia cricket match and added,
“sport is adding a new dimension to our vibrant relationship. These Games will also serve to bring the two countries closer.”
Further, reminding the people important teachings of Sikh gurus, PM Modi said in his message to the Indian community in Australia:
“The organisation of these Games will help the Sikh community demonstrate its sporting skills, competitive spirit and teamwork on a bigger platform. The participation of players from different nations is also noteworthy.”
PM Modi added that the Indian diaspora has carved out a niche for itself in the global landscape and the Sikh Games are just another example of it.
“I am sure that this initiative will enhance the love and affection for our diaspora not just in Australia, but across the world.”
Local member of parliament Sam O’Connor, Mayor Tom Tate and Cr Cameron Caldwell participated in the opening ceremony and congratulated the organisers for “cooking and serving tens of thousands of free meals throughout the event.”
In the last few months, Khalistan propagandists have tried to divide Indian Australians by specially targeting Sikh community members.
However, Australian Sikh Games categorically denied support to such elements. after that Khalisthan supporters fought and intimidated local community organisers to put a stall in the games.
Rajender Dhaliwal* (name changed on request) has been part of the Australian Sikh Games organising committee.
Mr Dhaliwal told The Australia Today, “We told these Khalistan supporters very clearly that their divisive agenda has no place in our games.”
“Australian Sikh Games are to unite the Indian Australian community, athletes from Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bengal origin in India participated.”
“They (Khalistan supporters) pressurised us to give them time on the stage and the stadium, but the committee stood its ground and denied them any space,” said Mr Dhaliwal.
When questioned about the presence of Khalistan flags on the ground on Sunday 9th March, visibly upset Mr Dhaliwal said, “These people forcefully captured that space and set up their table in the ground with 7-8 flags.”
“They also tried to put flags at the langer place but after objections from our volunteers it was removed,”added Mr Dhaliwal.
Sukhbir Singh* is an IT consultant from Melbourne, he with his friends volunteered at the games.
Mr Singh told The Australia Today, “Khalistan supporters bought their own tent and table to set the propaganda shop.”
“We reasoned with them that they are not allowed to do this however they hit one of our volunteers and threatened of consequences if anyone tries to push them out,”said Mr Singh.
Mr Dhaliwal told The Australia Today, “Organisers can forcefully remove them but it will create some ugly scenes in the games, we want people to take pleasant memories home, not of a fight.”
Sukhbir Singh disagrees with Mr Dhaliwal.
“We as a community have to decide to take action and throw them out of our religious, sports and cultural programmes otherwise they will keep harassing us like this,” Sukhbir Singh asserted angrily.
These games are organised by the Australian National Sikh Sports and Cultural Council and held each year in Australian state capital cities and major regional areas.
More than 5,000 athletes were registered to compete in 14 different categories of games that were held on the Gold Coast for the first time.
The 36th Australian Sikh Games will be held in Adelaide in 2024.