The Australian parliament has tabled a petition calling for the recognition of anti-Sikh riots that erupted in India in November 1984 as a 'genocide.'
At least 37,000 Sikhs were murdered in New Delhi and other parts of India in the wake of the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards. Hundreds of thousands more were displaced by the unrest.
Gandhi was killed in retaliation for the storming by government troops of the Golden Temple in Amritsar earlier that year to flush out Sikh separatists.
The petition, which was introduced in the Canberra parliament by MP Warren Enstch, chief opposition whip for the Liberal Party, on Thursday, has already been signed by more than 4000 people.
"It is important to note that today, Nov 1, is 28 years to the day that these attacks took place," Enstch read from the petition.
"And as long as they continue to be referred to as 'anti-Sikh riots' there can be no closure for the Sikh community. Discussions around mass violence and genocide will always be controversial but the continued denial of such historical injustices can only encourage modern day crimes against humanity."
The petition requested the Australian government to apply pressure on India to enact "all reasonable measures" to prosecute all those who were involved in the anti-Sikh violence.
After 28 years, no one has ever been convicted of the killings, despite reports that members of the ruling Congress Party had incited crowds to take vengeance on Sikhs, suggesting a planned, organized campaign.
Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), an international human rights group, supported the petition.
“Every person on this planet who believes in equality and peace for mankind should support this,” said Daljit Singh, a Sikh- Australian who first raised the subject with Entsch.
“Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Entsch explained why he decided to table the petition.
“What drove me to act in particular was that the United Nations and world leaders – including the Australian Parliament in February this year – have recognized an act of genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia, in 1995, when 7000 men and boys were massacred due to their Muslim faith,” he said in a statement.
“I thought to myself, if something of that nature could be recognized so quickly by the world community, it seems unreasonable that the Sikh community has had to wait for so long. I hope this step will serve to raise awareness, and maybe one day there will be the same level of justice for the Sikh community as for the other groups that have been recognized.”
Australia currently has a community of some 100,000 Sikhs.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.