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Sukhmeet Grewal: Debunking Attacks On Melbourne's Deep Sidhu Rally At Craigieburn Gurdwara
Pro-Modi pages, accounts, and outlets spread misinformation against Melbourne's large Deep Sidhu Rally, Baaz speaks to the Gurdwara and attendees
March 3, 2022 | 3.5 min. read | Original Reporting
On the morning of February 19, thousands of members of the Melbourn Sikh Sangat came together at Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Craigieburn, to honour Deep Sidhu.
The day began with a car rally connecting the key Gurughar’s in Melbourne's South-East, West, and, North, and culminated in a Sukhmani Sahib Path in an overflowing Diwan Hall, with Khalistan jhande and photos of Deep Sidhu awash.
Talking to members of the Sangat both on the day and since, it was clear just how important Deep Sidhu, and his message, were to the panth.
“He was our brother,” said one member of the Sangat, adding that “he wasn't afraid to speak the truth” and, in doing so “ignited the youth to realise the rights that India has taken from us.”
Other members of the Sangat remembered Deep as a “warrior” and “someone who was silenced for speaking out”.
“He could’ve lived a life of luxury and fame being an actor, but he chose to leave that behind to fight for the Panth,” one of them shared.
The program, however, did attract the attention of pro-India and pro-Hindu nationalist members of the local community.
In the days following the rally, NRIHerald, a well-known pro-Modi publication, came out with an article attacking the event with baseless allegations, which aside from maligning Deep Sidhu also shared calls to cancel the Gurudwara’s “Place of Worship” status.
Their fixation was on a set of banners that were displayed at one of the entrances to the Gurughar. A banner, which members of the Sangat actively embraced and had no problem with, shared attendees, contrary to some claims.
This article also received traction on social media, including in a private pro-India Australian Facebook group with thousands of followers, which Baaz gained access to and reviewed. The responses provide an insight into the type of far right-wing Hindu nationalism prevalent within Australia - a problem previously explored by Baaz.
Posts garnered many comments, most of which contained a mixture of profanities and Anti-Sikh sentiments, both from anonymous and real profiles.
These comments featured hateful statements like “Such incidents [make] [the] whole Sikh community feel ashamed”, “[this] goes against the teachings of the Ten Gurus [who were] basically all Hindus”, “These people are not real Sikh”, and “Gurudwara’s have become [a] haven of Khalistani dogs”.
Not long after the NRIHerald released its article, Indian Link also published an article, in which they talk to members of the Craigieburn Gurudwara Committee and get their reaction to the rally.
However, far from offering a fair and balanced report, they get a number of key facts wrong and misrepresent numerous quotes.
Baaz spoke to Gurvinder Singh, assistant Secretary of the Craigieburn Gurudwara Committee, who is featured heavily within the Indian Link article, and asked him to provide some clarity on his responses.
Gurvinder Singh is quoted by Indian Link as saying that the “Gurudwara is considering how we can prevent such incidents in the future.” However, Singh clarified these statements to Baaz saying that “the Gurudwara has no intention of ever stopping any rallies, neither now nor in the future.”
Singh stressed that “we have nothing against the messaging behind the rally … we would simply like collaboration to occur between those who organised the rally and our Gurudwara”.
He added, that “because the rally organisers didn’t talk to us” the Gurudwara struggled with the logistics on the day.
“We didn't know how many people were going to come, and couldn’t figure out how to handle things such as parking or traffic control.”
Further, Indian Link mentions that Singh points out that “the Gurudwara or its management” did not endorse the banners, which were featured on the day, however, in Singh’s conversation with Baaz, he adds that there is crucial context missing.
“The biggest problem we had with the banner was the use of the phrase Stop Hindu Fascism”, continuing to say that “a phrase such as Stop Hindutva [would have] achieved the same goal without potential offense being taken by the Hindu community.”
Further, Singh revealed to Baaz that reports put out by Australian Hindu Media and OPIndia, both infamous for being very pro-Modi and BJP, falsified information in reference to Craigieburn Gurudwara’s involvement in the planning of the car rally. Both articles reference members of the Craigieburn Gurudwara Committee “attending meetings on Friday to finalise plans for car rally”.
However, Gurvinder Singh, assistant secretary of the said committee confirmed that no representative from the “Craigieburn Gurudwara Committee attended the meeting” and “any article which says so is false”.
Singh then went on to clarify that “Craigieburn Gurudwara’s Committee has no problem with Khalistani messaging” and “has organised Khalistan rallies in the past”. He made sure to add that “he has no problem with future gatherings and looks forward to them, as long as there is active collaboration amongst all parties”.
Finally, when asked about the proceedings of the day, Singh said the Sangat was in “Chardikala” and the day continued without incident.
“There were Khalistani slogans, so obviously the atmosphere was great”.
“Deep Sidhu was a great man and we had to honour him,” he added.
Sukhmeet Grewal hails from Melbourne, Australia, and is currently studying to obtain his Masters in Culture and the Creative Industries. He is also the co-founder of “We Sikh Justice”, a Sikh youth collective based in Melbourne focused on education, advocacy, and sewa. You can find him on Twitter at @Sukhmeet_Grewal.
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