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Sikhs have made Australia their home for about 100 years

Religious needs of the Sikh community have been honored, by the gazettal of a separate Sikh cremation place in 1932

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Sikh community celebrating Vaishakhi. Wikimedia
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History says that many years ago, Indians came to Australia to run camel trains. These Indians were Afghans and they used to keep the supply line and communication open between the Centre of Australia and Melbourne. The goods and mail were transported using camels through the desert.

Later, the Punjabis came, got involved in the Victorian fields and took part in the rush for gold. Apart from them, Muslims from North Western Punjab region worked as camel drivers in the Central Australian dessert. Since then, more Indians came to Australia more than fifty years ago while both India and Australia were British colonies.

Like many others, Tarun Preet Singh migrated to Australia in 2002 with his wife and three kids and decided to settle in Perth. He joined the Sikh Association in around 2007-2008 and volunteered as a committee member in 2009.

Tarunpreet Singh ( Photo courtesy: http://www.australiansikhheritage.com/
Tarunpreet Singh ( Photo courtesy: http://www.australiansikhheritage.com/)

He found a brass plaque in the Canningvale gurdwara managed by SAWA. After inquiring people about its existence, he came to know about the former Sikh Cemetery in Adenia Park in Riverton suburb and about Mr John Parker of Canning Districts Historical Society.

Related Article: The spirited journey of Canadian Sikhs

On meeting Mr. Parker, he came to know that the brass plaque was designed by him and that got Tanupreet curious. On further questioning, Parker told him that he made the plaque using 20 kilos of brass metal in the year 1992. To be extra safe, he had made two of them, thinking that if one gets lost or misplaced, he could use the other.

The brass plaque in the Canningvale gurdwara managed by SAWA.
The brass plaque in the Canningvale gurdwara managed by SAWA.

Through this, Singh came to know about the migration of Sikhs in Australia and that people belonging to Sikh community were an integral part of Australia for more than 100 years.

The Adenia Park site history is listed on WA State Heritage Register as of significant historic value associated with WA State Cremation Act of 1929 and undertaking of cremation. The site is one of the proofs that Sikhs have made Australia their home for a very long time. The place is a symbol of acceptance of diverse ethnic groups who tried to maintain their customs, traditions and rituals.

This is how the religious needs of the Sikh community came forward and resulted in the gazettal of a separate Sikh cremation place in 1932. There are more than 12 cremation sites present in WA but this one was allotted for the Sikh community officially by the Government.

Further, this led to the discovery of an important piece in the history of a WW-II battle on West Australian soil that the Royal Indian Air Force Flying Officer Manmohan Singh died in. The Allied forces had 22 aircrafts that were destroyed and 88 personnel died on March 3, 1942 in Broome, West Australia. The historic incident also included USAF, RAF, RAAF and Dutch Airforce.

SAWA initiated by organizing a small event annually from 2011 at the site on the first weekend of March to commemorate both these important pieces of Sikh history in WA.

Few members of the SAWA community came forward to join the vital pieces of Sikh in the history of WA and formed ASHA (Australian Sikh Heritage Association) in the year 2014.

Apart from this, ASHA is also working on various projects that will bring forth the crucial roles played by Sikhs and the contributions made by them in the development of Australia.

City of Canning came forward and offered a great support to ASHA by building a pathway costing $35k in 2016 and Lotterywest has supported them with a grant of $150k.

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  • Pritam Go Green

    Sikhs are an important religious member of our society. They have established themselves in various parts of the world such as America, Australia, Iran, UK

  • Archita aggarwal

    wow!

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Across Asia’s Borders, Survivors Of Human Trafficking, Dial in for Justice

The trial has been ongoing since 2013

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Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India.
Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India. VOA

When Neha Maldar testified against the traffickers who enslaved her as a sex worker in India, she spoke from the safety of her own country, Bangladesh, via videoconferencing, a technology that could revolutionize the pursuit of justice in such cases.

The men in the western city of Mumbai appeared via video link more than 2,000 km (1,243 miles) west of Maldar as she sat in a government office in Jessore, a major regional hub for sex trafficking, 50 km from Bangladesh’s border with India.

“I saw the people who had trafficked me on the screen and I wasn’t scared to identify them,” Maldar, who now runs a beauty parlor from her home near Jessore, told Reuters. “I was determined to see them behind bars.”

“I told them how I was beaten for refusing to work in the brothel in the beginning and how the money I made was taken away,” she said, adding that she had lied to Indian authorities about her situation after being rescued, out of fear.

Thousands of people from Bangladesh and Nepal — mainly poor, rural women

and children — are lured to India each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into prostitution or domestic servitude, anti-slavery activists say.

Activists hope the safe, convenient technology could boost convictions. A Bangladeshi sex trafficker was jailed for the first time in 2016 on the strength of a victim’s testimony to a court in Mumbai via video link from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

Convictions for cross-border trafficking in the region are rare as most victims choose not to pursue cases that have traditionally required them to testify in Indian courts, which meant staying in a shelter for the duration of the trial.

“They have always wanted to go back home, to their families,” said Shiny Padiyara, a legal counsel at the Indian charity Rescue Foundation that has facilitated videoconferencing cases and runs shelters for trafficking victims. “And most never return to testify.”

But videoconferencing is making it easier to pursue justice. Survivors have given statements, identified their traffickers, and been cross examined in at least 10 other ongoing international cases in Bangladesh, advocates said.

“Enabling victims to testify via video conference will lead to a possible decrease in acquittal rates for want of prime witnesses,” said Adrian Phillips of Justice and Care, a charity that supports the use of video testimony to help secure justice.

Even then, it is tough. During Maldar’s three-hour deposition, she withstood a tough cross-examination, showed identity documents to prove her age and countered allegations by the defense lawyer that she was lying about her identity.

Students Combat Human Trafficking
Students Combat Human Trafficking, flickr

‘Unpardonable’

Tara Khokon Miya is preparing her 27-year-old daughter to testify against the men who trafficked her to India from Dhaka, where she had been working in a garment factory.

“I almost lost my daughter forever,” she said, sitting in her home in Magura, less than 50 km from Jessore, describing how she disappeared after work and was taken to a brothel in India, and raped and beaten for almost a year before being rescued.

“What the traffickers did to my daughter was unpardonable,” Miya said, wiping her tears. “We seek justice. I nurtured her in my womb and can’t describe what it felt like to not know about her whereabouts.”

The trial has been ongoing since 2013 when the young woman, who declined to be named, was repatriated. The charity Rights Jessore is helping the family through the process, by providing counseling and rehearsing cross-examination.

“The best thing is her father will be by her side when she talks in court,” Miya said, finally breaking into a smile.

India signed a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh in 2015 to ensure faster trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and with Nepal in 2017, and laid down basic procedures to encourage the use of videoconferencing in court proceedings.

“The procedure is very transparent,” said judge K M Mamun Uzzaman at Jessore courthouse, which often converts its conference hall into a courtroom for videoconferencing cases to protect survivors’ privacy.

“I’m usually present and victims are able to testify confidently … it is easy and cost effective for us,” he said. “But the biggest beneficiaries are the survivors.”

Silencing Victims
Silencing Victims, pixabay

The future

Videoconferencing in Bangladesh has been plagued by technical glitches such as power cuts and poor connections.

“Sometimes the internet connection is weak or it gets disconnected during the testimony,” said Binoy Krishna Mallick head of Rights Jessore, a pioneer in using this technology to encourage trafficking survivors to pursue justice. “But these are just teething troubles.”

The bigger challenge, activists say, is to ensure survivors remain committed to the trial despite delays caused by a backlog of cases and witnesses’ failure to appear to testify.

Swati Chauhan, one of the first judges to experiment with video testimony in 2010, is convinced that technology can eliminate many of these hurdles.

Also read: Imagining Panun Kashmir: Dissent And Detente in South Asia

“Victims go through a lot of trauma, so it is natural that they don’t want to confront their trafficker in a court — but that doesn’t mean they don’t want the trafficker to be punished,” she said. “A videoconference requires meticulous planning and it is not easy coordinating between departments and countries. But it is the future for many seeking justice.” (VOA)