Sukhmeet Grewal: Lack Of Security Footage & Suspect Descriptions Undermine Mandir Vandalism Investigations
"Victoria Police convey that while they are investigating the matter, they are not in a position to name any suspects, and cannot confirm whether the spate of vandalisms are connected."
February 1, 2023 | 3.5 min. read | Original Reporting
The Australian Sikh community finds themselves at the centre of allegations and accusations from Hindu and pro-India groups, as a string of vandalisms strike mandirs across Melbourne.
Police investigations are still ongoing. However, no security footage or descriptions of suspects have been shared by the multiple mandirs to assist in identifying culprits. No groups or individuals have yet to claim responsibility either.
On January 12. 2023, the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Mill Park, a North Melbourne Suburb, was found to be vandalized. The walls of the Mandir were adorned in slogans such as “Modi=Hitler”, “Sant Bhindrawale Martyr”, and “Hindustan Murdabad”.
Not long after, on January 16, 2023, and January 23, 2023, two other Melbourne mandirs were also found to be vandalized. Similarly, their walls displayed spray painted slogans like those found on the BAPS Mandir earlier in the month.
In a statement to Baaz News, Victoria Police convey that while they are investigating the matter, they are not in a position to name any suspects, and cannot confirm whether the spate of vandalisms are connected.
However, that has not stopped multiple Hindutva and Indian actors from laying the blame on Sikhs immediately.
The Australia Today, a well known pro-Modi outlet, reported that the vandalism had been perpetrated by “Khalistan supporters”, adding that Hindus now fear for their safety in Australia.
The Australia Today editor, Jitarh Jai Bhardwaj, states that he has seen the CCTV footage of the vandalism. However, the recordings, if they exist, have not been made public or made available to assist in identifying any suspects. Something that is otherwise often done when attempting to solve vandalism cases.
Vishva Hindu Parishad of Australia, another pro-Modi organization, also released a statement whereby they assert, again with no evidence, that “Khalistani Extremists vandalized and defaced” the BAPS Mandir.
These incidents occurred in the lead up to the January 29, 2023, Khalistan Referendum in Melbourne. Organizers shared that approximately 60,000 individuals participated. The vote was not without controversy as 25 pro-India demonstrators fell upon the polling area, triggering a clash, with sources sharing that antagonizing slogans were thrown at Sikhs, including calls to recreate the 1984 Sikh genocide.
All of this comes at the same time as mandirs in Canada also have been vandalized.
Similarly to Australia, the BAPS Mandir in Toronto was vandalized in September, 2022, with pro-Khalistan and anti-India slogans, in the lead up to the Khalistan Referendum vote in Brampton that same month. Over 100,000 individuals participated at that polling location.
Like the incidents in Australia, no CCTV footage has been released by BAPS Toronto, and no description of suspects has been provided either. Editor's Note, Feb 15, 2023 - Toronto Police have shared with Baaz that there are no new updates on this incident.
Sources with knowledge of the investigation have shared with Baaz News that some authorities and officials have grown frustrated and suspicious over the lack of evidence considering the comprehensive security systems in place at the mandir.
Editor's Update, Feb 15, 2023: multiple sources with knowledge of police investigations into Canadian mandir vandalisms have shared with Baaz that authorities and officials have not ruled out a “false flag" operation.
Claims of vandals attacking the Shri Bhagavad Gita Park, which were spread by Candian Liberal Member of Parliament Chandra Arya and the High Commission of India, around the same time, were later proved to be false and completely fabricated, as first reported on by Baaz News.
More recently, the Gauri Shankar Mandir in Brampton was also vandalized on January 30, 2023, with similar anti-India and pro-Khalistan graffiti. Again, there is no CCTV footage or descriptions of suspects. Investigations are ongoing. However, no party has claimed responsibility.
Editor's Update, Feb 15, 2023: Ram Mandir was vandalised on Feb 14 with similar graffiti. No security video or pictures have been released. Sikhs have noted that Sant Bhindranwale has been misspelled in a way that would be obvious to any Sikh.
Unlike the mandirs, vandalisms of Khalistan Referendum posters and Gurdwaras have been captured by video, including in Canada. Vandalism of Khalistan Referendum posters in Melbourne are also currently being investigated by Victoria Police as well.
Sikhs in Melbourne’s North West caught five Hindu men as they attempted to vandalize Tarneit Gurdwara.
The men confessed to attempting to vandalize the Gurdwara and the Khalistan Referendum posters that had been put up, partly in retribution for what they believed to be the targeting of mandirs across Melbourne by Sikhs.
Sukhmeet Grewal hails from Melbourne, Australia, and works alongside Sikh Youth with a focus on education, advocacy, and sewa. You can find him on Twitter at @Sukhmeet_Grewal.
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