Australia won’t accept religious persecution as Katter calls for Sikh support
KATTER’S Australian Party MP Bob Katter swapped his Akubra for a turban to stand alongside hundreds of Sikh protestors outside Federal Parliament on Wednesday who were rallying to highlight alleged genocide and human rights breaches by the Indian Government against Sikhs and Australians in the nation’s northern state of Punjab.
Organiser of the rally, Ravi Singh of Melbourne, said the 500-plus gathering “from all over the country” had been raising its voice on the front lawns of parliament since Monday and were pleading with the Australian Government to act and offer protection and assistance to Sikhs and Australians “trapped” in Punjab following a recent internet and SMS blackout imposed upon the state.
The Canberra rally follows months of protesting in India, where Sikhs have been calling for Punjab to become a separate state – a movement which began in the 1980s – and has been motivated by the northern state’s push for greater religious and cultural recognition and rights.
Mr Singh said due to the internet blackout, there were fears for the safety of both Punjab residents, as well as family from Australia, currently visiting their home state.
“We’re worried for our families because we’ve been trying to connect with them for three or four days, and we can’t speak with them,” Mr Singh said.
“We’re fearful of what might actually happen to them, and what will get reported back to us here.
“Because there’s no internet or communication, we don’t have official numbers, but we believe there’s nearly 400 activists who have been arrested, about 700 people detained in their own homes, and about 3700 Twitter accounts blocked.”
He said Australian Sikhs had gathered in Canberra hoping the Federal Government would speak and act on the issue.
“We’d like to hear the Government raise the issue in Parliament as a signatory to international human rights treaties, and we’d like to see if the Federal Foreign (Affairs) Minister can make a statement on what Australia can do to help; not just people of Punjab, but the Australians who are there.”
Proud Christian Kennedy MP Bob Katter spoke at the protest on Wednesday and told the gathering it was “a very sad day and I want to express my solidarity with the Sikhs”.
“I have said constantly in this place (Parliament) that if you’re going to bring in people to Australia, surely you bring in the persecuted minority from the Middle East – the Sikhs, the Jews and the Christians,” Mr Katter said.
“I’ve been impressed with Sikhs, they come to Australia, and they become Australians. And I got so fascinated by that I took out books on the Sikh religion and discovered the Sikh religion is almost identical to Christianity.
“Don’t think this won’t have an impression on the Parliament of Australia, we’ve always prided ourselves on being a country of a fair go. Well today we want the Australian Government to put their money where their mouth is and come out and say to the Indian Government that ‘we will not accept religious persecution’.”
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