Tarneit, November 18: A M Gondane, Indian High Commissioner to Australia, who was on an official visit to Melbourne on Saturday; was scheduled visit the Tarneit Gurudwara among other Indian places of worship.

He was however, stopped at the entrance of the Tarneit Gurudwara by pro-Khalistani protesters, who argued with him for a long time and agitatedly complained about alleged atrocities meted out by Indian government against Sikhs.

The protestors said that they “were not Indians anymore”, referring to the 1984 riots.

They warned the Indian government to keep away from matters of Sikh religion and all places of worship, in Melbourne.

After more protests and slogans, Mr Gondane was eventually allowed to enter the Gurudwara to pay his respects. He left soon after partaking prashad.

All of this came to light after a video emerged on social media when a video was posted on facebook, where protestors are seen telling the High Commissioner 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 the protestors, without much success. Ms Manika Jain, Consul General of India in Melbourne is also seen waiting in the background of the video.

One of the protestors, Harkirat Singh Ajnoha who stopped Mr Gondane from entering the Tarneit Gurudwara told SBS Punjabi radio that they “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.

Gunwant Kaur, the Secretary of the Tarneit Gurudwara management committee speaking to SBS Punjabi Radio said that it “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 that they “were extremely disruptive and were trying to intimidate the Gurudwara committee members as well.”

Ms Kaur also said that there are much better ways to protest.

“These people didn’t behave like Sikhs are meant to, and have brought a bad name to the entire community.”

The protesters told Mr Gondane that he would be welcome as an individual but not as an Indian Consulate member, in fact, no other Indian consulate official would be allowed into any Gurudwara in Melbourne.

It is understood that the Indian Consulate had organised Mr Gondane’s visit to Melbourne including his visit to Indian religious places.

Mr Gondane has however said that his purpose is to promote “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.”

He said he would welcome anyone with grievances and he would be happy to look into it.

Shalini Singh

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