Indian PM raises alarm over attacks on Hindu temples in Melbourne

A spate of attacks on Hindu temples in Melbourne has sparked concern at the highest level in India and drawn a promise from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to give special protection to stopping the threats.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his concern to Albanese late on Friday in a closed discussion, highlighting the scale of the alarm in India over the problem.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivering statements to the press at the leaders’ meeting in New Delhi.

Alex Ellinghausen

The defacing of three Hindu temples in January came after public protests by supporters of secessionists seeking a break-away state for Sikhs to be called Khalistan.

The Indian government vigorously opposes the secession movement and has called for action against the attacks in the past.

But the remarks by Modi elevated the issue in formal talks with Albanese that also canvassed security, trade and cultural ties including an agreement on film production.

Modi, whose Bharatiya Janata Party had its origins in Hindu nationalism, revealed he had raised the matter when he made a statement to the media in New Delhi on Friday night while standing alongside Albanese.

“It is unfortunate that over the last few weeks we have been receiving regular news of attacks on temples in Australia,” he said.

“It is only natural that this kind of news is very worrying and distressing for everyone in India.

“I expressed these feeling and concerns to PM Albanese and he has assured me that the safety of the Indian community will be a special priority for him.

“Our teams will remain in regular contact on this subject and will offer each other all possible support.”

Modi’s remarks were made in Hindi and translated into English by the official translator at the joint press statement. Albanese did not make any remark on the matter. The two leaders did not take questions from the journalists from the Indian and Australian media.

Indian community groups raised concerns about the attacks in January after the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in the Melbourne suburb of Mill Park was defaced with graffiti.

The ISKCON Hare Krishna Temple in Albert Park, which serves as the hub for Melbourne’s Bhakti Yoga Movement, was defaced with anti-Hindu slogans the same month.

In the most recent incident, the Shree Laxmi Narayan Temple in Brisbane was vandalised last week, according to a report by the Press Trust of India, a news agency.

Albanese began his visit to India on Wednesday with a visit to the Sabarmati ashram in Ahmedabad, where Mahatma Gandhi once lived, and then attended a special event as a guest of local political leaders to celebrate Holi, one of the major festivals in Hinduism.

“One of the benefits of living in Australia with its large Indian diaspora is that we celebrate Holi in Australia as well, with all of the colour and the celebration of joy that we’ve seen just here,” he told the event on Wednesday night.

“Holi is a chance to renew ourselves and each other, and it’s little wonder that it’s been so heartily embraced by Australians – not just Australians of Indian descent, but all Australians.”

Victoria Police is investigating the incidents in Melbourne and has asked anyone with information to contact authorities.

Acting Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan said in January it was disgraceful to desecrate religious temples.

“The diversity of Victoria is one of our strongest assets, and we condemn these attacks,” she said.

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