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  • A protester arguing with the Indian High Commissioner to Australia, Mr AM Gondane (right), at a Melbourne Gurudwara (Supplied)
The Indian High Commissioner Mr A M Gondane was refused entry into a Sikh temple in Melbourne for a long period of time, amid loud protests over the weekend.
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21 Nov 2017 - 4:48 PM  UPDATED 1 Dec 2017 - 9:35 AM

After being obstructed from entering during several minutes of protests and sloganeering from protesters, Mr Gondane was eventually allowed to enter the Gurudwara Sahib (Sikh place of worship) to pay his respects, and left soon afterwards, after partaking of ‘parshad'. 

In a video of the incident, a protester clearly states, “No Indian official will ever be allowed to enter any gurudwara in Australia in their official capacity. They can enter as individuals but not as representatives of the Indian government.”

Mr Gondane had travelled from Canberra to Melbourne on an official visit and was scheduled visit the Tarneit Gurudwara Sahib (a Sikh temple) at 8am on Saturday, 18 November.

According to sources, Mr Gondane himself had sought the visit, as he was keen to visit religious places in the area which has a large Indian population.

However, he was accosted at the entrance by a group of protesters, who argued with him for a long time at the entrance to the Gurudwara.

Gunwant Kaur, the Secretary of the Gurudwara management committee tells SBS Punjabi, "This was an extremely unfortunate incident."

"There was a group of around 25-30 protestors, who had begun arriving at the venue from 7.15 am onwards. They were very loud and aggressive, and had surrounded the Indian Consul General Ms Manika Jain, who had arrived earlier.”

"They created quite a scene and crossed all limits,” she said, adding  “they were extremely disruptive and were trying to intimidate the Gurudwara committee members as well.”

A video capturing all of this has emerged on social media, in which a few protestors are seen arguing with the High Commissioner Mr AM Gondane, telling him that he could enter the gurudwara premises as an individual “but not as a representative of the Indian government.”

The video shows Mr Gondane trying to reason calmly with them, without much success.

Harkirat Singh Ajnoha is one of the protesters who can be seen in the video, stalling Mr Gondane from entering the gurudwara sahib at Tarneit.

Speaking to SBS Punjabi today, Mr Ajnoha said, “ We were protesting the arrest of 47 Sikh youths in Punjab in recent times, the latest example being the arrest of Jagtar Singh Johal who was in India for his own wedding.”

 “We want to raise awareness about the human rights violations in Punjab and recognition of the Sikh genocide,” said Mr Ajnoha.

 “Although everyone is welcome at any Gurudwara, but we won’t let officials use their visit to influence our youngsters from our stages,” he added.

 But Ms Gunwant Kaur, from the Gurudwara management committee said, “There are much better ways to protest. This is certainly not the way. These people didn’t behave like Sikhs are meant to, and have brought a bad name to the entire community.”

When SBS Punjabi contacted the Indian High Commission in Canberra for a comment, Mr Gondane said, "My purpose is to foster a sense of community and brotherhood over here. There is no question of 'us' and 'them'. It's all about 'we'. We are all together as one community."

"If anyone has any grievance, they can bring it to me and I'll be happy to look into these."

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Stories published by SBS online are routinely amended or updated.  This is done as part of SBS’s normal editorial processes.

SBS radio stands by the report that Manpreet K Singh first published on 21/11/2017 titled “Indian High Commissioner to Australia denied entry into a Melbourne Gurudwara”  and is confident all versions of it, then and since, comply with the SBS Codes of Practice.

 

 

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