Concerns are growing that online “hate factories” spreading misinformation and propaganda about minority groups in India are influencing and radicalising people in Australia.
In late February, men armed with bats and hammers attacked four Sikh students in a car in Harris Park in western Sydney. The occupants escaped unharmed, but their car was severely damaged. Police are investigating the attack, but have stopped short of calling the attack a hate crime.
Community leaders say divisions within the Indian-Australian community have grown, as Hindu nationalists use Facebook and Whatsapp groups to spread divisive rhetoric targeting minority groups including Sikhs and Muslims.
The divisions are rooted in the ongoing farmers’ protest in India, where thousands of farmers – the majority of them Sikhs from India’s northern region – took to the streets to demand the government revoke new agriculture laws.
Tensions boiled over when police intervened at a rally in Sydney, also in February. Sikh community members, seeking to show their solidarity with the farmers protest in India, were met with supporters of the governing BJP party, forcing police to break up the rally.
No arrests were made, but the sense of simmering acrimony stuck with many who witnessed it.
Amar Singh, the president of charity Turbans 4 Australia, said he was worried about how the extreme rhetoric targeting minority Indian groups could affect his community.
“I’ve been in Australia 22 years, and I have never seen it this bad before. For me personally, it’s been an eye-opener to see how much hate there is in the community.
“I do feel like my community is in danger. If a person can be targeted … for their background or religion, it’s a danger to our whole society.
“These attacks, in addition to the bullying and harassment online, is certainly not welcome.”
Singh said that some people in online groups were advocating for members to boycott particular businesses based on whether the owners were Sikh or Muslim.
“That’s not the way we should do things, we shouldn’t pick where we shop based on the ethnicity or religion of the owner. It goes against our multicultural society here in Australia.”
Read the full story, ‘Fears of escalating violence as online ‘hate factories’ sow division within Australia’s Indian community- (The Guardian, 19 Mar 2021), here.
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