In February 2012, this parliament recognised a terrible act of genocide. Seven thousand men and boys were massacred in Bosnia in 1995 because of their Muslim faith.
What if I told you that in India in 1984, more than five times that many people, 37,000 who were predominantly men and young boys, were massacred and that more than 300,000 people were displaced or made homeless for a similar reason? Since then, the persecution has continued to this day—all because of their Sikh faith. I have spoken several times in this place about why these events of November 1984 took place.
Today, I rise to recognise the event that I took part in at the end of last year, the Sikh Genocide Remembrance March in Melbourne. On 13 December, I led around 1,000 Sikhs through the city centre to commemorate the 30th anniversary of this terrible time. It was an amazing experience to walk in a sea of colourful turbans and saris and feel the emotion of the day.
Back in 1944, Raphael Lemkin coined the term 'genocide' after seeing the horror of the Holocaust in Nazi occupied Europe. It is a blight on humankind that, despite there now being a universal understanding of what genocide is, these atrocious acts have not stopped. Thirty years on, the physical wounds from the violence may have healed but the damage inflicted on the psyche of a generation of Sikhs remains.
I have been involved in this cause for several years now, all thanks to my very good friend Daljit Singh. On November 2012, I tabled a petition in parliament with more than 4½ thousand signatures calling on Australia to recognise the event as an act of genocide. Unfortunately, it was ignored by the foreign minister in the previous government.
I would particularly like to acknowledge the Supreme Sikh Council of Australia and representatives of the Sikh Genocide Recognition National Committee for their work in raising awareness about this issue.
I would like to acknowledge Daljit Singh, Gurjeet Singh, Harkirat Singh, Gurbaaz Singh, Gurmeet Singh, Jatinder Singh and Harpal Singh. I would also like to acknowledge key international guests who also attended the march. These include Jagmeet Singh MP, member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, Canada; Jatinder Singh; Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, Sikhs for Justice, USA; and Harinder Singh, Sikh Research Institute.
I pledge my support to continue working to achieve recognition in the Australian parliament for the Sikh genocide. I urge the Australian parliament to recognise this horrible event because until such time—we cannot change the past. But what we can do is recognise these acts for what they really were. That is very important in bringing closure and recognition for this wonderful group of Australians who are part of our community.
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