Indira Gandhi's killers are "martyrs" in New Zealand Sikh temple
A decision by New Zealand's largest Sikh temple to hail as martyrs the three men who assassinated prime minister Indira Gandhi has upset some members of the Indian community in Auckland.india Updated: Feb 13, 2010 10:15 IST
A decision by New Zealand's largest Sikh temple to hail as martyrs the three men who assassinated prime minister Indira Gandhi has upset some members of the Indian community in Auckland.
The temple in Manukau has hung on its walls portraits of Gandhi's bodyguards Satwant Singh and Beant Singh and of co-conspirator Kehar Singh, the Weekend Herald reported on Saturday.
Satwant and Beant were killed in a gun battle after firing more than 30 bullets into her in 1984 and Kehar was sentenced to death.
Entitled "Shaheed Bhai" - or martyr brother - the pictures hang alongside those who have been killed for their beliefs.
The newspaper said pictures had divided the Sikh community and upset other Indians in New Zealand's largest city, which has the country's largest Asian population.
"If someone wants to honour a terrorist, that's an individual choice," Veer Khar, general secretary of the New Zealand Indian Central Association, told the paper.
"But to put them up in a public place, as a community we totally condemn such an activity."
He acknowledged that atrocities were committed against the Sikh community prior to Gandhi's assassination, but said honouring the men who killed her was creating unnecessary tension.
"We sympathise with the pain, we don't deny that those things happened," he said. "We want to say that we have to move on in life."
However, Ranvir Lali Singh, a Sikh who has been involved with the temple for 15 years, told the paper that anyone who died for the religion was considered a martyr.
"We don't consider those who killed Indira Gandhi as terrorists, they are our martyrs," he said.
"She was killed by her Sikh bodyguards as revenge for her attack on the Golden Temple, our holiest shrine, and for that, we consider them our martyrs. There is nothing wrong."
A spokesman for India's senior diplomat in New Zealand, High Commissioner Sureesh Mehta, acknowledged the issue was "sensitive", but declined further comment.